Abstract for: Community Driven Modeling of Social-Ecological Systems: Lessons from Andhra Pradesh, India

In this paper, we focus on our methodological approach of engaging poor communities and households to model the interactions between household livelihood strategies and natural resource dependence, with a particular focus on forest resources. Drivers of socioeconomic and ecological systems and feedback mechanisms between the two are multiple, difficult to generalize, and hard to reduce to a core representative set. We will describe our methodological strategy of using participatory rural appraisal techniques in combination with group model building to elicit data on a key dynamic problem over time in a forest dependent community in rural Andhra Pradesh, India. Our goal is to develop dynamic models predicated on the knowledge and behavior of actors most directly embedded in particular social-ecological systems. We believe that people, dependent on natural resources for their living, are the real experts to help develop dynamic models of human and natural systems interaction. We outline the four phases in which we use participatory approaches to identify a dynamic problem that concerns forest resource dependence and their livelihoods, the associated reference modes that portray the dynamic model, and the way we build confidence in the initial models that emerge from the community. We conclude with reflections on community driven participatory modeling.