Abstract for: Representation and Dynamic Implications of Mental Models of Food Systems

Undernourishment is a persistent problem in sub Saharan Africa. Climate change is expected to make achieving food security even more difficult in nations such as Zambia, where agriculture is dominated by small-scale farming and rain-fed maize production. In order to evaluate current and proposed policies to enhance food security, it is important to understand the dynamic decision making processes of small-scale farmers, a major stakeholder group and the main target group of government policies in the Zambian food system. This paper analyzes qualitative text data from in-depth interviews with small-scale farmers and represents them in the form of a causal loop diagram, which serves as a visual representation of the group mental model of this stakeholder group. This causal loop diagram is then simplified and analyzed. The resulting discussion examines the implications of farmersí current dynamic decision making and its effectiveness in light of changing framework conditions. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the group mental model can be used to design policies that integrate farmersí knowledge with the knowledge required to address current and emerging food system challenges.