Environmental sustainability and conventional agriculture: an assessment of maize monoculture in Sinaloa, Mexico using multicriteria decision analysis and network analysis

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Sinaloa, a coastal state in the northwest of Mexico, is known for irrigated conventional agriculture, and is considered one of the greatest successes of the Green Revolution. With the neoliberal

Sinaloa, a coastal state in the northwest of Mexico, is known for irrigated conventional agriculture, and is considered one of the greatest successes of the Green Revolution. With the neoliberal reforms of the 1990s, Sinaloa farmers shifted out of conventional wheat, soy, cotton, and other commodities and into white maize, a major food staple in Mexico that is traditionally produced by millions of small-scale farmers. Sinaloa is now a major contributor to the national food supply, producing 26% of total domestic white maize production. Research on Sinaloa's maize has focused on economic and agronomic components. Little attention, however, has been given to the environmental sustainability of Sinaloa's expansion in maize. With uniquely biodiverse coastal and terrestrial ecosystems that support economic activities such as fishing and tourism, the environmental consequences of agriculture in Sinaloa are important to monitor. Agricultural sustainability assessments have largely focused on alternative agricultural approaches, or espouse alternative philosophies that are biased against conventional production. Conventional agriculture, however, provides a significant portion of the world's calories. In addition, incentives such as federal subsidies and other institutions complicate transitions to alternative modes of production. To meet the agricultural sustainability goals of food production and environmental stewardship, we must put conventional agriculture on a more sustainable path. One step toward achieving this is structuring agricultural sustainability assessments around achievable goals that encourage continual adaptations toward sustainability. I attempted this in my thesis by assessing conventional maize production in Sinaloa at the regional/state scale using network analysis and incorporating stakeholder values through a multicriteria decision analysis approach. The analysis showed that the overall sustainability of Sinaloa maize production is far from an ideal state. I made recommendations on how to improve the sustainability of maize production, and how to better monitor the sustainability of agriculture in Sinaloa.