Project code: DFG SFB 564: G1.2
Contract period: 01.07.2006
Purpose of research: Applied research
Further intensification of agriculture in the highland areas puts pressure on the sustainability of farming systems. To assess the potential of technical innovations and the impacts on sustainable development subproject G1 started developing two types of computer models in phase II of the Uplands Program. Linear Programming (LP) and Multiple-Goal Programming (MGP) models illuminated whether intensification can be sustainable. The results show that, for the case of the village of Mae Sa Mai, a sustainable farming plan would be the maintenance of current vegetable areas together with a further conversion of still vacant land to vegetables while irrigated highland areas should be used for fruit tree production.
Phase II showed that companion modeling, as based on participatory simulations sessions and progressive development of a multi-agent systems (MAS) model, is capable of promoting a shared representation among local stakeholders with different perspectives. The communication with local stakeholders focused on water; the outcome of simulation results were presented in terms of number of days with water shortage, and all scenarios were related to a change in water use. Although, stakeholders were able to think in terms of these indicators and scenarios, a wider perspective including crop yields, economic returns and sustainability indicators would be useful to assess innovations and sustainability strategies.
The next step in phase III is therefore to combine these two types of models and to develop an integrated model approach that represents the farming systems well in both its economic and biophysical dimensions. With the experience accumulated in phase II and additional manpower coming to the project in phase III, the subproject is in an excellent position to do this. An integrated model will be an ideal instrument to assess the technologies developed by the Uplands Program, which is the main research objective for phase III. The research activities for phase III can be summarized as follows
From village MGP to integrated multi-agent modeling at watershed level
In phase III, the subproject will focus on the assessment of technologies developed within the Uplands Program while paying attention to the various types of sustainability of the system. Because farm households are heterogeneous in terms of opportunities and constraints to technology adoption, the village level models will be disaggregated to the farm household level while the model will be scaled out from the village level to the watershed level.
In phase III, the subproject will also attempt to integrate computer models that have been developed and are currently being developed by various subprojects of the Uplands Program, such as an economic model, a hydrology model, a soil model, and a crop yield model. The strongest overlap in models is in the Mae Sa Noi subcatchment in Thailand; the strategy is to integrate models there first and then to use the developed methods to integrate these models at the watershed level. In Northern Vietnam, data collection will be continued to apply this approach as well.
Further advancement in participatory simulation
Participatory simulation will be extended to incorporate more economic and sustainability indicators and continued along two lines in phase III: First, a Thai PhD student funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is currently half-way his dissertation. His research focuses on the Pang Ma Pha district and combines MAS companion modeling with an assessment of sustainability. The fieldwork for this research has been completed and a first version of the MAS model is expected at the beginning of 2006.
Second, the MAS that will be developed for the Mae Sa Noi subcatchment will be used for teaching the approach and methods, and the Thai researchers will then apply a participatory simulation approach in the Mae Sa Noi subcatchment following a similar approach as taken in phase II but with additional sustainability and economic indicators.