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System Dynamics Helps Farmers Escape Poverty Trap in Guatemala

EXECUTIVE Summary

Guatemala holds the 4th highest global ranking for chronic malnutrition, and climate change is intensifying the challenges subsistence farmers face in providing food for their families. Utilizing a System Dynamics model facilitated meaningful discussions among various stakeholders and government entities, ultimately leading to the provision of strategic resources, such as livestock and expert guidance, for 152 families. This support enabled farmers to break free from the poverty trap and make valuable investments in their agricultural endeavors.

The System Dynamics model effectively illustrated the interplay between numerous variables, empowering farmers to comprehend and take control of key leverage points essential for their well-being and prosperity.

#Food security #Farmers #Agriculture #Guatemala

The Problem

Guatemala faces a staggering 55% prevalence of chronic malnutrition (a widely recognized indicator of food insecurity) in rural areas and ranks as 4th worst globally. Climate change is amplifying the difficulties subsistence farmers in Guatemala face in providing food for their families. Although climate change affects all food producers in various ways, subsistence farmers are especially vulnerable due to their limited access to irrigation and crop insurance, which could help mitigate the effects of fluctuating weather conditions. Furthermore, because subsistence farmers depend on their own production to feed themselves and their families, low yields and crop loss often result in malnutrition and starvation.

This underscores the need to understand how local farmers can collaborate and work with both local and central governments to enhance their food security.

The Solution

The model was developed using Group Model Building (GMB) and stakeholder engagement in two distinct communities. In each case, we collaborated with farmers and representatives from central and local governments to create causal loop diagrams that illustrated the primary relationships within their respective food systems and the variables influencing food security resilience in the face of climate change. This understanding was then converted into quantitative System Dynamics (SD) models, which facilitated discussions regarding potential policies.

The model comprises five main components:

  1. Maize local market: This component captures the primary dynamics of the local market using a traditional commodity model.

  2. Households: This element represents the dynamics affecting household cash availability and purchasing power, with revenues generated from maize production, livestock, and other activities.

  3. Livestock: This component illustrates the primary dynamics of livestock (specifically poultry) production on local farms.

  4. Soil: This part demonstrates the dynamics of organic nitrogen and organic carbon in the soil.

  5. Water and irrigation: This component captures the infrastructure used for irrigation and exogenous variables like rainfall.

The model features three main feedback loops:

  1. Commercial agriculture (R1): Revenue from maize increases household cash, which enhances their ability to invest in farming (such as seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation systems), resulting in improved soil quality and increased water uptake.

  2. Poverty trap (R2): A portion of maize production is allocated for self-consumption. The higher the proportion dedicated to self-consumption, the less maize is available for the market, which reduces revenue and subsequently investment in farming. Low investment in farming leads to low yields, further decreasing the amount of maize that can be sold.

  3. Reserves driving wellbeing (R3): Higher production rates result in more maize being available for self-consumption, reducing the need to spend money on purchasing food. This increases farmers’ available cash for investing in the next year’s harvest.

Outcomes

The policy recommendations from our study were utilized by local NGOs and government representatives to lobby their representatives in parliament and the Minister of Agriculture (MAGA). As suggested in the report, 152 families were provided with livestock in small quantities and supported by technical experts to develop small production farms.

This demonstrates the compelling nature of using System Dynamics in addressing complex issues, such as food security in the context of climate change. System Dynamics enabled to graphically represented the system through causal loop diagrams, providing a crucial visual aid that facilitated communication with local stakeholders in a way that other modeling approaches, mainly focused on mathematical formulations, could not achieve. Further, the emphasis on stocks in System Dynamics allowed for the effective representation of food stocks and key resources like soil organic matter, while maintaining model simplicity.

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Kenya District Uses System Dynamics To Manage Water Resources

Sustainable management of natural resources is a vital concern in most countries and regions worldwide. In Laikipia District in Kenya, located at the foothill zone of Mt. Kenya, water is required in the upper zone for irrigation agriculture, horticultures and livestock production as well as for urban areas. In the lower zone water is required for wildlife and natural habitats.

In an earlier study (Gallati 2008) a system dynamics model has been developed to better understand possible dynamics in collective irrigation management focusing on the feedbacks between social mechanisms of collective action and the performance of the irrigation practices. In Laikipia, however, it turned out that this model was not applicable due to the fact that large immigration had taken place in the last decades preventing inhabitants from developing close relations of exchange and reciprocity, which had been key preconditions of this model.

A stakeholder workshop in 2009 revealed that the transition towards new water management practices is one of the key concerns in the area.

Based on these insights a system dynamics model has been developed to demonstrate the effect of new water management practices in different zones along the river reflecting the fact of varying rainfall and agricultural options from uphill to downhill zone and down to the plains. In particular the users can experiment with different options such as storage capacity, increase of water use efficiency, use of flood flow, adaptation of agricultural practices, etc.
in order to analyze the effect of these practices on overall production and income. As such it is envisaged to support local participants in adopting a river (basin) perspective. The usefulness of the model is being evaluated in a second stakeholder workshop in 2010. Based on this experience further model development will be evaluated. One option is to further develop the model into a tool for broader use in capacity building and training for sustainable water management in collaboration with local or international institutions.

The project is developed in collaboration with CETRAD (Centre for Training and Integrated Research in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas Development; www.cetrad.org) in Nanyuki, Kenya and is part of a larger research initiative on sustainable natural resources management. It is supported by NCCR North-South in Switzerland, which is funded by the Swiss Development Agency and the Swiss National Fund.

Contact and further information: Justus Gallati, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences justus.gallati@hslu.ch.

Client CETRAD
Author/Consultant Gallati J

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More Information

Gallati J. 2008. Towards an improved understanding of collective irrigation management: a System Dynamics approach. [PhD Dissertation]. Berne Switzerland: University of Berne.

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Energy Consumer Industries Look for Alternatives Under Climate Policy Regulations

Four industries – iron and steel, aluminum, paper and pulp, and chemicals – account for nearly half of the energy consumed by U.S. manufacturing industries and over 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, making them highly vulnerable to volatile energy prices. Millennium Institute and High Road Strategies collaborated on three connected study commissioned by the National Commission on Energy Policy, the Environmental Defense Fund and AFL-CIO Working for America Institute (WAI) and developed with support from industry association organizations, to examine how increased energy prices associated with comprehensive and mandatory cap-and-trade climate policy proposals currently being considered by the U.S. Congress would affect the competitiveness of these industries in the long term. The studies also examined the industries’ capabilities and opportunities to mitigate adverse cost impacts and improve their economic performance under different climate policy scenarios.

In short, the findings strongly suggest that over the long-run, technologies are available to enable energy-intensive industries to achieve sufficient efficiency gains to offset and manage the additional energy costs arising from a climate policy. However, the authors also strongly believe that the industries analyzed will need additional measures that both mitigate these cost impacts in the short-to-medium term, and policies that encourage and facilitate the transition of energy-reliant companies to a low-carbon future, while enhancing their competitiveness in global markets.

Findings of these studies being circulated starting from Aril 2009 are substantially contributing to the debate on the introduction of climate regulations, both in the US and abroad.

Client National Commission on Energy Policy, Environmental Defense Fund, WAI
Authors/Consultants Bassi AM, Yudken JS

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More Information

Yudken J.S. and Bassi A.M. (2009). Climate change and US Competitiveness. Issues in Science and Technology, Fall Issue.
Bassi A.M. and Yudken J.S. (2009). Potential challenges faced by the U.S. chemicals industry under a carbon policySustainability 1: 592-611. Special issue on Energy Policy and Sustainability.

Yudken J.S. and Bassi J.S. (2009). Climate policy and energy-intensive manufacturing: the competitiveness impacts of the American energy and security act of 2009. High Road Strategies and Millennium Institute, February 2010, Washington DC, USA. Prepared for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

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Mauritius Government Takes Integrated Approach on Energy Policy

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities of the Republic of Mauritius and with support from UNDP, the Millennium Institute (MI) has carried out an assignment on supporting formulation and evaluation of Mauritius’ longer term energy policy framework. The goal of this project is to empower the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities, and the Government of Mauritius, with a flexible, integrated, dynamic and user-friendly uniquely customized simulation model that allows for the evaluation of energy policy proposals to make informed decisions on longer term policy planning. This model was jointly developed with a team of experts, including representatives from Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping, the Central Electricity Board (CEB), the Electrical Services Division (ESD), the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Maurice Ile Durable (MID) Fund, the University of Technology Mauritius (UTM).

Because of its flexibility and ease of use, in addition to its integrated and dynamic nature, the Mauritius Model allows for a cross sectoral analysis of the impacts of the energy policy provisions, with simulations running from 1990 to 2025.

This is important when operating in such a rapidly changing environment and volatile time.

The project included continuous group modeling sessions and daily exchanges with key stakeholders, to end with a two-day workshop and with a presentation to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius.

Results of the analysis proved to be of considerable value to the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities, and led to an update of the longer-term energy policy document later approved. The utilization of an integrated, cross sectoral, national development model also served to bring together several ministries, the private sector and universities to jointly analyze results, both opportunities and challenges, arising from the implementation of the energy strategy.

More information on this case can be found in Bassi A.M. (2009). Systems modeling of long term energy policy, Mauritius. Prepared for the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities, Republic of Mauritius, and UNDP Country Office Mauritius and Seychelles, Port Louis.

Client Ministry of Renewable Energy and Public Utilities, Mauritius
Authors/Consultants Bassi AM, Bainac K, Bokhoree C, Deenapanray P

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Indonesia Government Turns Back on Original Urban Planning Strategy

In pioneering spatial planning management for metropolitan cities, the Ministry of Human Settlements and Regional Infrastructures Development of the Republic of Indonesia, started a project to build a computer simulation on spatial planning. The pilot project was situated in Semarang, the capital city of Central Java, Indonesia.

The aim of the project was to understand the impact of metropolitan growth and spatial planning on essential indicators of urban life such as economic growth, land usages and industry development. The impact of population growth was the central focus in this project. Population growth was explored to predict to which extent additional facilities such as lands for industry development and transportation infrastructure were needed.

The model showed that almost all policies directed at raising economic growth also increased the population number.

The conclusion of the project is that any policy in the field of spatial planning should anticipate effects on the population sector and mitigate planning accordingly.

Client Ministry of Human Settlements and Regional Infrastructures Development, Indonesia
Authors/Consultants Radianti J, Tasrif M, Rostiana E

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Sandoz Positions Cholesterol Drug for Success

This was the first of a series of models with Sandoz dealing with the positioning of new products in various therapeutic application markets.  The cholesterol-lowering drug was a “me-too” drug entering a very competitive market.  The purpose of the model was to investigate a variety of positioning alternatives, mainly focused on pricing and marketing, to determine whether the new drug could become a winner and what it would take.  The model was capable of explaining historical prescriptions and marketing data of competitor firms and revealed the importance of product switching, pre-marketing response, and patient compliance.

Client a large global pharmaceutical company (Sandoz, now Novartis)
Author/Consultant Homer J

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Publication

Homer J.  Why We Iterate: Scientific Modeling in Theory and PracticeSystem Dynamics Review, 12(1): 1-19, 1996.

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How to Understand Climate Change Policies with C-ROADS

The Dynamics of Climate Change: Understanding and influencing the planet’s future (October 8, 2013)

Presented by Andrew Jones, Co-Director, Climate Interactive

Presentation slides: Dynamics of Climate Change slides

Description: Learn how world leaders are using C-ROADS in global climate negotiations C-ROADS is an award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. World leaders are using the model in global climate negotiations. In this interactive session, Andrew Jones, Co-Director of Climate Interactive, introduces participants to C-ROADS and describes how it can be used by others to understand and test their own scenarios or conduct real-time policy analysis. This webinar is the first in the Big Data, System Dynamics, and XMILE webinar series jointly sponsored by IBM, isee systems, and the OASIS XMILE Technical Committee.

The Official Website

climateinteractive.org is the official website that covers all information about this brilliant project including the latest news, simulators and learning tools, videos, etc.

The Issue You Tackled

Negotiations have failed even though scientific understanding of climate change and the risks it poses ha s never been stronger. The failure of global negotiations can be traced to the gap between the strong scientific consensus on the risks of climate change and widespread confusion, complacency and denial among policymakers, the media and the public.

What You Actually Did

The C-ROADS model is designed to address these issues and build shared understanding of climate dynamics in a way that is solidly grounded in the best available science and rigorously non-partisan, yet understandable by and useful to non-specialists, from policymakers to the public.

The Results

C-ROADS:

  • tracks GHGs, including CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, halocarbons, aerosols and black carbon;

  • distinguishes emissions from fossil fuels and from land use and forestry policies;

  • allows users to select different business-as-usual (BAU) scenarios, or to define their own;

  • enables users to capture any emissions reduction scenario for each nation portrayed;

  • reports the resulting GHG concentrations, global mean temperature change, sea-level rise, ocean pH, per capita emissions and cumulative emissions;

  • allows users to assess the impact of uncertainty in key climate processes;

How to Work With The Model?

Video tutorials are available online to guide use

Name Climate Rapid Overview And Decision Support
Modelers John StermanThomas FiddamanTravis Franck, Andrew Jones, Stephanie McCauley, Philip Rice, Elizabeth Sawin, and Lori Siegel
Model To get the model, please follow this link.
Client/Participant Please click here.
Client Type NGO

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Climate interactive: the C-ROADS climate policy model. Download
Management flight simulators to support climate negotiations Download
Communicating climate change risks in a skeptical world Download
The Climate Scoreboard shows the progress that national contributions (INDCs) to the UN climate negotiations will make assuming no further action after the end of the country’s pledge period (2025 or 2030). Scoreboard
World climate: a role-play simulation of climate negotiations Download

  

A Big Boost for the Climate Summit

An editorial in the New York Times about the climate summit in Paris, mentions C-ROADS team analysis of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). Please follow this link to read this article in the NYT.

Offers for Paris Climate Talks Would Reduce Warming by 1°C

Climate Interactive’s Climate Scoreboard analysis, produced in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan), shows that the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) put forward in advance of the UN climate talks this December make a sizeable contribution towards curbing global emissions and limiting warming. However, the offers need to be paired with further action if warming is to be kept below the 2°C target, avoiding the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. Please see the full news release of their new analysis of the expected impact of the emissions pledges nations have made in the run up to Paris. The climate scoreboard is an embeddable widget that people can embed on their sites, blogs, etc. and will automatically update as analysis is revised when new pledges come in. The New York Times and in Science Magazine Science Insider (dated September 28, 2015) have pick up this story so far.

Climate Interactive announced the World Climate Project at a Back-to-School Climate Education Event at the White House.

The World Climate Exercise is a role-playing simulation game that puts teams, classrooms, and communities into the role of international climate negotiators to create a pathway to solutions that limit global warming. Through these simulation games, Climate Interactive plans to reach more than 10,000 people by December 2015, when nations will come together to finalize a global agreement on climate change in Paris. (Aug 2015)

Professor John Sterman and Climate Interactive featured in film “Disruption”

The film Disruption features incredible and informative interviews from scientists, activists and leaders—including Climate Interactive partner John Sterman of MIT. The film was released in advance of the People’s Climate March, the largest climate march in history, in the streets of New York City on September 21, 2014. (September 2014)

System Dynamics Application Award

The System Dynamics Applications Award is presented by the Society every other year for the best “real world” application of system dynamics. The Society awarded its 2013 Applications Award to John Sterman, Thomas Fiddaman, Travis Franck, Andrew Jones, Stephanie McCauley, Philip Rice, Elizabeth Sawin and Lori Siegel for their work Climate Interactive: The C-ROADS Climate Policy Model. To see the citation that was made by Brad Morisson at the conference, please follow this link(Jul 2013)

Professor John Sterman wrote an article in Climate Progress

It’s a great short article by John Sterman articulating why it is crucial to “hold our feet to the fire” WRT +2C maximum global warming target (i.e., to promote carbon emissions mitigation), while being careful, skeptical and perhaps even averse to climate resilience initiatives (i.e., to avoid engaging in adaptation to climate change). This article is contemporary, and more relevant as each day passes by without a global commitment to limit climate damage to a level that adaptation becomes pertinent. Please follow this link to find the article. (Jul 2013)

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Oslo Agency of Waste Management Studies How to Increase Recycling Rate

The Issue You Tackled

One of the goals for the waste policy in the municipality of Oslo is to achieve a recycling rate at least 50 % from the household waste by 2018. In 2015 the recycling rate was 38 %. The result in 2016 was 38 % and this raises the question whether the objective of 50 % is realistic given the portfolio of means and actions that is used in the municipality today. The Agency of Waste Management in Oslo carried out a study to identify new ways and means to increase the recycling rate based on international published studies. The purpose of this work​ ​​was to use recommendations from the​ ​​modeling work, to implement these in different curbside collection schemes​,​ and​ ​​to quantify the effects on the recycling rate. The main aim is to give the Agency in Oslo sufficient information to conclude about the most cost-effective collection schemes and if it is relevant to change today​’​s scheme.

What You Actually Did

The work consists of five main parts.

  1. First ​​five different curbside collection schemes were designed and developed . These schemes consisted of different combinations of waste fractions and containers for recycled fractions and residual waste. The schemes were developed so they were mutually exclusive. From a decision point of view, the intention was that the decision maker has to choose one scheme, not a combination of schemes.

  2. ​​A system dynamics model ​was developed ​​that could simulate a future recycling rate​, based on data collected. This model consists of a traditional waste value chain and a structural and behavioral section that takes into account how the various schemes affect the ​public’​s waste sorting behavior. ​Three structural components in the model are populated with data ​reflecting the scheme that is simulated. These data were collected during group work with specialists in the waste agency.

  3. ​T​he collection schemes were simulated over a period of 15 years. The schemes were ranked by recycling rate and sensitivity analy​se​s​ were run​. ​​The net increase in recycling was identified ​by taking the schemes​’​ simulated recycling rate and subtract​ing​ the recycling rate in 2015.

  4. Then, as part four, the schemes ​were cost​ed. Cost and income drivers ​were identified and the different schemes​’​ cash flow calculated. Cash flows were transformed into a yearly ​totals – subtract​ing​ the cost base in 2015 ​identified ​the additional cost for each collection scheme.

  5. Finally, the simulated recycling rate and annuity ​were combined in two cost-efficiency figures. These figures gave the final ranking between the schemes. The cost-efficiency is the net increase in recycling rate ​compared with the additional cost.

The Results

The collection scheme ranked number 1 achieved a 50,9% recycling rate​ ​​for the lowest costs. However, this scheme requires another combination of bins and waste fractions compared to the scheme Oslo uses today, and​ ​​would ​require a major logistic change which will challenge the households and the waste agency.

The collection scheme​ ​​most similar to the scheme Oslo uses today was ranked as number 5 and achieved a 46,8% recycling rate to the highest costs. This scheme is a gradual development of today’s scheme.

Sensitivity analysis shows that ranking of the collection schemes due to cost-effectiveness is inelastic and the simulated ranking between the schemes did not change within the structural sensitivity parameters that were used (+/- 50%).

This work also shows that an implementation of a new collection scheme needs new sets of managerial information that the Agency​ ​​does not currently have. If Oslo finds it relevant to modify today​’​s collection scheme, 4 recommendations have to be​ ​​agreed before the Agency starts the process of changing the collection scheme.

Name Structural and Behavioral Effects on the Recycling Rate
Modelers John Egil Nilssen and Maren Sylthe
Client/Participant Waste Agency of Oslo, Norway
Client Type Government

Do you want to know more?

Related Publications

Presentation Slides presented at the Waste Agency of Oslo Download
Supporting Material and Documentation of the Work (Recycling Effect) Download
Supporting Material and Documentation of the Work (Measures Package) Download

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