CAREER: Pastoral Management of Open Access: The Emergence of a Complex Adaptive System

This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award funds research that will advance our understanding of pastoral management of social-ecological systems. Specifically, the project examines how mobile pastoralists in the Logone floodplain in the Far North Province of Cameroon coordinate their movements to avoid conflict and overgrazing in a land tenure system that is commonly described as open access, a situation generally regarded as leading to a tragedy of the commons. The hypothesis is that this management system is best understood as a case of emerging complexity, in which individual decision-making, coordination of movements among pastoralists, and participation in an information sharing network result in the emergence of a complex adaptive system in which access to and use of grazing resources is managed. The hypothesis will be tested in a multidisciplinary study of pastoral mobility that integrates spatial and ethnographic analyses as well as multi-agent simulations and analytical modeling. Understanding how these emergent systems work is critical for the management of rangelands across West Africa, most of which have some form of open access. The educational goal of this project is to train undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines to become the new generation of scientists and policy makers who have the interdisciplinary skill set and perspective needed to analyze complex environmental problems and contribute to their solution. A special effort will be made to recruit minority students from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in the sciences. A portion of the funding will support the development of lab facilities for use by undergraduate and graduate students conducting ethnographic, statistical, and spatial analysis, multi-agent simulations, and analytical modeling of complex social-ecological systems.

Lead Investigator: 
Emergent Properties
agent-based modeling
Logone floodplain, Cameroon
Temporal Scope: 
Five years
Spatial Scope: 
Natural System: 
Human System: 
Pastoral system