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A system dynamics approach to land use changes in agro-pastoral systems on the desert margins of Sahel


  • Rasmussen, Laura Vang
  • Rasmussen, Kjeld
  • Reenberg, Anette
  • Proud, Simon


Land use changes in the Sahel are influenced by multiple socio-economic and bio-physical driving forces that result in a complex and dynamic land use system. This paper outlines to what extent a system dynamics approach may serve to nuance the understanding of Sahelian agro-pastoral systems. Firstly, by using the Sahelian part of Northern Burkina Faso as a case study, we build a simple model that includes the most influential drivers of land use changes and their impacts in the land use system. As the developed model is proven to successfully simulate the main directions of change in the land use system, we employ the model to explore the impacts of important and realistic alterations in those factors driving land use change. This is done by generating ‘what if’ scenarios. The results show that ‘what if’ scenarios based on sudden events, such as a drop in millet prices or a total stop in circular migration, have a more pronounced impact on the system than other more long term alterations such as increased rainfall variability. As the developed model allows testing simple hypotheses about the dynamics of land use systems, the approach serves as a useful complementary tool to more established approaches in advancing land change science.

Suggested Citation

  • Rasmussen, Laura Vang & Rasmussen, Kjeld & Reenberg, Anette & Proud, Simon, 2012. "A system dynamics approach to land use changes in agro-pastoral systems on the desert margins of Sahel," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 56-64.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:107:y:2012:i:c:p:56-64 DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2011.12.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Reenberg, Anette & Paarup-Laursen, Bjarke, 1997. "Determinants for land use strategies in a Sahelian agro-ecosystem--Anthropological and ecological geographical aspects of natural resource management," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 53(2-3), pages 209-229.
    2. Reardon, Thomas & Matlon, Peter & Delgado, Christopher, 1988. "Coping with household-level food insecurity in drought-affected areas of Burkina Faso," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 16(9), pages 1065-1074, September.
    3. Powell, J. M. & Fernandez-Rivera, S. & Hiernaux, P. & Turner, M. D., 1996. "Nutrient cycling in integrated rangeland/cropland systems of the Sahel," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 52(2-3), pages 143-170.
    4. Reij, Chris & Tappan, Gary & Smale, Melinda, 2009. "Agroenvironmental transformation in the Sahel: Another kind of “Green Revolution"," IFPRI discussion papers 914, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Saqalli, M. & Gérard, B. & Bielders, C.L. & Defourny, P., 2011. "Targeting rural development interventions: Empirical agent-based modeling in Nigerien villages," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(4), pages 354-364, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Issa Ouedraogo & Jürgen Runge & Joachim Eisenberg & Jennie Barron & Séraphine Sawadogo-Kaboré, 2014. "The Re-Greening of the Sahel: Natural Cyclicity or Human-Induced Change?," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(3), pages 1-16, September.
    2. Müller, Birgit & Schulze, Jule & Kreuer, David & Linstädter, Anja & Frank, Karin, 2015. "How to avoid unsustainable side effects of managing climate risk in drylands — The supplementary feeding controversy," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 153-165.
    3. Issa Ouedraogo & Cheikh Mbow & Michael Balinga & Henry Neufeldt, 2015. "Transitions in Land Use Architecture under Multiple Human Driving Forces in a Semi-Arid Zone," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(3), pages 1-18, July.
    4. Kun Cheng & Qiang Fu & Xi Chen & Tianxiao Li & Qiuxiang Jiang & Xiaosong Ma & Ke Zhao, 2015. "Adaptive Allocation Modeling for a Complex System of Regional Water and Land Resources Based on Information Entropy and its Application," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 29(14), pages 4977-4993, November.
    5. Dang, Anh Nguyet & Kawasaki, Akiyuki, 2017. "Integrating biophysical and socio-economic factors for land-use and land-cover change projection in agricultural economic regions," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 344(C), pages 29-37.


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