Tuesday 6
Resilience to drought in Monsoon-dominated semi-arid environments : analysis through computer simulation
Andrea Balbo, Matthieu Salpeteur
› 15:45 - 16:40 (55min)
Mobile phones for mobile people: The effects of affordable cellular communication technology on the resilience of traditional shepherds in Gujarat, India
Xavier Rubio-Campillo  1@  , David Ortiz, Victoria Reyes-García  2, 3@  , Matthieu Salpeteur  2@  , Andrea Balbo  4@  
1 : Barcelona Supercomputing Centre  (BSC)
2 : Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
3 : Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats  (ICREA)
4 : Institución Milá y Fontanals (CSIC)  (IMF CSIC)

Session title: Resilience to drought in Monsoon-dominated semi-arid environments: analysis through computer simulation

The focus of this work is on the impact of cell phones for the exchange of environmental information among traditional shepherd communities. Using computer simulation, we examine how an increased flow of information may affect the resilience of these groups to environmental variability. Previous studies suggest that the way individuals share knowledge about the environment is partly the consequence of adaptive processes related to natural resource management and therefore to the potential variability of environmental conditions. Depending on these parameters, the optimal strategy for the community to maximize resource exploitation could be defined by a varying frequency of information sharing. In terms of evaluating the resilience of a given socio-ecological setting, a full understanding of the effects of changes in the frequency of information sharing should take into account not only currently available resources but also potential future scenarios with reduced resource availability.

We present an Agent-Based Model designed to explore the relationship between the intensity of communication amongst shepherds and the exploitation of natural resources (i.e. knowledge of the seasonal distribution patterns of pasture across the landscape over a number of years). We aim at understanding how an increase in the rate of information exchange among traditional groups of shepherds, as a result of the widespread diffusion of cell phone communication, affects the resilience of the system to short and mid-term environmental change. Parameters underlying the computer simulation are calibrated to the specific settings of North Gujarat (India), a monsoon-dominated region characterized by a climate with high intra- and inter-annual variability.

For centuries, local shepherds have left their villages at the start of the dry season (i.e. beginning of the year) looking for suitable grazing areas to maintain their herds. Their seasonal migrations could extend over tens and hundreds of kilometers, before coming back home at the end of the dry season (late Spring). In the past, communication between groups of shepherds was much reduced during the migration season, as their routes seldom overlapped. The recent introduction and fast spreading of cell phones has radically changed this situation. Shepherds are now able to instantly share information about the quality of the areas they are exploring for grazing. This implies a higher capacity for the exploitation of available resources in the short-term. However, due to the short time elapsed since the introduction of this technology, it is difficult at present to foresee its effects on resource maintenance, and ultimately on the resilience of this particular socio-ecological setting, in the mid- and long-term. Our simulations suggest that the introduction of telecommunications among these communities has the potential to sharply decrease in the mid-term the resilience of the system to climatic variability.

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