Simulating Rural Environmentally and Socio-Economically Constrained Multi-Activity and Multi-Decision Societies in a Low-Data Context: A Challenge Through Empirical Agent-Based Modeling
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
Development issues in developing countries belong to complex situations where society and environment are intricate. However, such sites lack the necessary amount of reliable, checkable data and information, while these very constraining factors determine the populations' evolutions, such as villagers living in Sahelian environments. Beyond a game-theory model that leads to a premature selection of the relevant variables, we build an individual-centered, empirical, KIDS-oriented (Keep It
... tive & Simple), and multidisciplinary agent-based model focusing on the villagers' differential accesses to economic and production activities according to social rules and norms, mainly driven by social criteria from which gender and rank within the family are the most important, as they were observed and registered during individual interviews. The purpose of the work is to build a valid and robust model that overcome this lack of data by building a individual specific system of behaviour rules conditioning these differential accesses showing the long-term catalytic effects of small changes of social rules. The model-building methodology is thereby crucial: the interviewing process provided the behaviour rules and criteria while the context, i.e. the economic, demographic and agroecological environment is described following published or unpublished literature. Thanks to a sensitivity analysis on several selected parameters, the model appears fairly robust and sensitive enough. The confidence building simulation outputs reasonably reproduces the dynamics of local situations and is consistent with three authors having investigated in our site. Thanks to its empirical approach and its balanced conception between sociology and agro-ecology at the relevant scale, i.e. the individual tied to social relations, limitations and obligations and connected with his/her biophysical and economic environment, the model can be considered as an efficient "trend provider" but not an absolute "figure provider" for simulating rural societies of the Nigrien Sahel and testing scenarios on the same context. Such ABMs can be a useful interface to analyze social stakes in development projects.