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Tradition and change in the Southern cone of America. Limits and potentialities of multi-agent systems as methodological tools for the study of the social impacts of territorial dynamics

Morales H., Litre G., Tourrand J.F., Bommel P.. 2008. In : IRSA. Envisioning Prosperous Rural Futures in a Globalizing World : XII World Congress of Rural Sociology, 6-11 july, Goyang, Korea, 2008. s.l. : s.n., 21 p.. World Congress of Rural Sociology. 12, 2008-07-06/2008-07-11, Goyang (Corée, république de).

The territorial transformations that have taken place during the last decade in the South American temperate grasslands - the "Pampas" - have been accompanied by dramatic social changes. As large-scale agribusiness replaces extensive livestock production, agricultural investment fund managers -IFM- break as the newest actors of the reshaped landscape. Unable to reproduce their traditional livelihoods under the growing economic and environmental pressures, many family farmers are selling or renting their properties to IFM while migrating to the cities. Uruguay is a privileged laboratory for the study of this coupled socio-territorial dynamics. As in Argentina and Brazil, Uruguayan Pampas' are being agriculturized2 by large-scale soybean mono cropping. This process is being accelerated by the emergence of the new markets of China and India, the two main soybean importers of the Pampean countries. Bounded by tradition and by values that go beyond profit making, some family livestock farmers strive to avoid rural exodus and to adapt to these new scenarios while maintaining their livelihoods, strongly identified with extensive cattle grazing. Small to medium-sized farmers usually choose between two adaptation strategies: i) to continue with cattle grazing through, a) technological innovation and intensification and/or b) cost reduction; or ii) to abandon livestock production and convert to soybean production. Any of these strategies are threatened, however, by the strong increase of land prices, generated not only by soybean mono cropping (dubbed the "white gold" of South America), but also by major forestry and pulp mill developments. This paper will not focus on the environmental impact of soybean mono cropping in the Pampa biome, an issue which is still highly disputed. It will, instead, offer an interdisciplinar, systemic approach to the social consequences of the land competition between modern, large-scale agriculture and traditional, low input livestock production. How do land concentration and large-scale mono cropping affect the social sustainability of extensive livestock farming systems operating in usually small production units? Is it possible to model - and simulate - simultaneously the dynamics of physical-biological systems interacting with social systems? This article aims at evaluating the interest, contributions and limits of multiple-agent-based simulations or Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) as a methodology to answer to these questions. The underlying hypothesis is that MAS contribute to improve the understanding of the decision-making processes of family farmers, who must decide between sticking to traditional cattle-breeding or investing in the higher and shorter-term profitability of soybean production. However, MAS models must be enhanced through the inclusion of socio (and even psychological) variables allowing to better understand the complex dynamics of land - use related decision making processes. The article's structure has five sections: i) brief introduction of MAS, ii) application of MAS simulations (DinamicaParcelaria) to the specific case of territorial transformations resulting from the dialectic monocropping / livestock family farming in the Uruguayan Pampas, iii) application of MAS simulations (Arapey) to a case study in Northern Uruguay, where the traditional extensive livestock production system has not changed in the last two centuries, remaining as the sole production system iv) crosschecking of the above-mentioned preliminary results with the outcomes of participatory meetings with livestock producers in Uruguay....

Mots-clés : amérique du sud

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