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Supportive modelling and role playing in support of biodiversity

The aim is to pass on and share knowledge, methods and tools that enable the control and collective management of complex systems. To this end, the multiplicity of viewpoints, on various levels of the socioeconomic stucture, is now being taken into account.

"This supportive modelling approach was initiated and developed by the GREEN team in the mid-1990s, in the hope of achieving a clearer understanding of the relationship between nature and society" says Didier Bazile, a researcher with the CIRAD "Management of Renewable Resources and Environment" Research Unit (GREEN).

Since then, the idea has taken root and many researchers are now using the concept in various fields. It is being used to develop new management mechanisms, for instance to reduce disputes over use of a given resource, improve access to water or conserve biodiversity in situ.

Seed production systems in Africa and Asia

For both sorghum in Mali and rice in Thailand, producers, researchers and local decision-makers are putting their heads together and discussing the problems and research issues that concern them. The aim is to establish dynamic models of how cereal seed supply systems operate, to be used in simulating scenarios of how traditional local varieties could be conserved.

A multi-agent simulation (MAS) model was developed following role-playing workshops involving farming communities and local leaders. It is modular, summarizes the cosial determinants of sorghum varietal diversity and makes it possible to monitor exchanges of varieties between villages and farms. The system is also open to climatic risk management strategies and can be used to explore the criteria applied when choosing seed suppliers.

In Thailand, a partnership between CIRAD and regional and national universities and government agencies has made it possible to use the method as part of a commodity chain approach involving all the various private- and public-sector partners. This has resulted in quality seed supplies, and has also served to maintain rice varietal diversity.

Agronomy and sustainable development

The GREEN Research Unit is a member of the advanced thematic research unit (RTRA) on agricultural research and sustainable development, founded in Montpellier in October 2006, which involves CIRAD, INRA and SupAgro. Within this network of excellence, which combines technical and social sciences in order to study crops and their sustainable adaptation to their environment, the unit's researchers are making full use of their experience in developing countries.

Helen Burford | alfa
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