Agent-Based Modeling as a Tool for Policy Making Towards Common-Pool Resources: Palm Heart Harvesting and Traditional Communities in Brazil

"Public environmental policies aiming at protecting endangered and shared natural resources are frequently imposed by governments on indigenous people. Based on traditional economic theory, they usually forbid the appropriation of resources from the natural environment. In the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, the prohibition imposed on the extraction of palm tree Euterpe edulis Mart. has resulted in a decrease in indigenous people's household income and has not effectively preserved this keystone species, which is close to extinction in many areas. This scenario offers an opportunity to use computational simulations to test different institutional scenarios that could help tackling social and ecological issues simultaneously. By examining varied rules and anticipating outcomes before decisions are taken, computational models can help to optimize policy interventions. In this paper we will show the outcome of two agent based models that aim at comparing the performance of two distinct policy scenarios to control palm heart harvesting. One represents the current situation and is based on central control by the government. Community members that violate the rules are subject to punishment and can be fined. The second model is decentralized and based on community control. The community sets out the rules and is responsible for supervising its members. In this model, a rule is proposed to reward or to punish the agents according to their actions (cooperate or defect). By varying the parameters, we tested if the decentralized model is more efficient to secure a sustainable harvesting of E. edulis from the forest. It will be shown how simulations can help to design and select public policies that both empower local communities and preserve endangered species."
forest products, agent-based computational economics, IASC