Shaping agricultural policies in the Anthropocene era: what can we learn from the DPSIR framework?


  • Guillaume Lhermie



The global agricultural sector often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, usually because of its secondary economic importance and because no major structural shifts in demand for agricultural commodities are expected. However, there is considerable variation between high-income and developing countries.

If the world is to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, seven of which
are closely related to agriculture, then the effects of agricultural production on local cultures, societies and environments need careful consideration. Applying the driver-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework helps in understanding interactions between actors and sectors, and overall in better designing agricultural policies.

The DPSIR framework is a holistic approach to policy created by the European Environment Agency that facilitates the identification and description of processes and interactions in human-environmental systems. DPSIR recognizes agriculture as being multi-functional. The agricultural sector not only produces food, it also provides ecosystem services like pollination, pest control, soil conservation and biodiversity.

Drivers such as food production, recreation and tourism, fulfil human needs but put pressure on the environment. Pressures are physical changes in the environment in response to drivers. These can range from land-use shifts to disease outbreaks to climate change.

States are the sum of societal, economic and environmental functions measured with indicators. Measurements include a vast range of factors, including air and water quality, as well as job security, human well-being and agricultural production. Impacts are a direct result of changes in state for both the economy (e.g., employment, income, prices) and the environment (e.g., environmental damage, emissions, land improvement).

Responses are intended to modify outcomes by changing human actions and mitigating undesirable results. Responses could be anything from reforming agricultural policies to designating protected areas to restricting emissions.

DPSIR’s main tenet is that human societies and nature are interdependent. Since agriculture involves externalities associated with production and consumption, it’s important for policy-makers to adopt a systemic approach.

DPSIR doesn’t directly consider ethics and equity. Some agricultural externalities are not constrained by borders and others affect future generations, so these factors must also be taken into account. Reliable, shared metrics must be carefully chosen and publicly available data are necessary to evaluate program outcomes.






Briefing Papers