Research on Modelling and Resource Management within Cirad


Environmental research includes issues relating to natural resources and externalities. It deals with the management of renewable resources and production externalities (i.e. pollution) as well as the management of ecosystems that are used for diverse purposes. In general, the aim is to define and implement rules for the collective use of resources. When resources and externalities are analysed, it is important to take into account natural and social dynamics. Natural dynamics are characterized by the interaction of multiple processes involving different species and resources at different spatial and temporal scales. Social processes involve different stakeholders and several organizational levels, ranging from individuals and user communities to large development institutions.

Within CIRAD, the Green project "renewable resource management and the environment" -set up in 1993 by Jacques Weber- seeks to present local and global processes for managing multipurpose resources. Research focuses on two areas: appropriation modes and decision-making processes (Weber, 1993).

The appropriation modes bring together questions of representation, access, use, transfer, and distribution of resources. The analysis of appropriation modes leads to the examination of institutions and management modes.

The study of decision-making processes involves the examination of interactions between stakeholders with different weights and representations in order to understand their dynamics and develop negotiation aids.

To progress further in the analysis of interactions, a domain of research will have to be specified: that of the relation between scale and the viability of interactions. The criteria and constraints of viability are not the same at the level of the village, the region, or the world. One has to understand the links between the implementation of management tools and the viability of interactions at different spatial and organizational scales.

Integration between levels

Our project does not attempt to answer all the above questions. However, one problem appears to be a lateral one, i.e. the integration of dynamics on several spatial scales and organizational levels. Two conflicting approaches can be used to represent a system. The first involves examining the global dynamics of organizations by putting together local dynamics. The second starts with local interactions and builds up to organizations. Our research reflects the duality between: the ecology of individuals and the landscape, local and regional natural resource management, local management of common property and economic or legal management tools.

When considering resource management, it is important to go beyond this bipolarity and address the problem of how these different levels can be integrated.

Simulating interactions to help collective management

In order to address this problem, we have developed modelling tools that can simulate interactions on several scales as well as a methodological approach to using these tools.

Collective management can be facilitated by the use of decision-making and negotiating tools which represent the interdependence of stakeholders concerned with managing the different problems. They can also be used to examine the different representations of stakeholders (from the producer to the manager).

These tools are based on modelling complex systems in order to understand spatial and social dynamics. This begs the question as to how economic and geographic approaches can be integrated in a model based on behaviour and interactions. We propose combining tools that characterize spatial structures -such as GIS or spatial-analysis software- and tools which simulate interactions, eg. cellular automata or multi-agent systems.

The approach facilitates the decision-making process by using an artificial world to demonstrate the diversity of local dynamics and potential regulatory processes and the fact that management tools can have a wider impact (regionally and nationally). It is also important to compare results from different scenarios in order to facilitate the decision-making process. The study of interaction indicators and methods -so that values can be attributed to different scenarios- is also an essential part of the accompanying process.


Weber J., 1995. Gestion des ressources renouvelables: fondements théoriques d'un programme de recherche. Paris, Cirad Green, 21 p. Download (in french, pdf, 92 ko).

Weber J. 1996. Gestão de recursos renovaveis: fundamentos teoricos de um programa de pesquisas, in Gestão de recursos naturais renovaveis e desenvolvimento, Paulo Freire Vieira e Jacques Weber (orgs.), Cortez Editora, São Paulo.

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