Agent-based modelling to assess community food security and sustainable livelihoods

Authors Dobbie, S.; Schreckenberg, K.; Dyke, J.G.; Schaafsma, M.; Balbi, S.
Year of Publication 2018
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
Volume 21
Issue 1
Open Access Yes


We present a methodological approach for constructing an agent-based model to assess community food security and variation among livelihood trajectories, using rural Malawi as a case study. The approach integrates both quantitative and qualitative data to explore how interactions between households and the environment lead to the emergence of community food availability, access, utilisation and stability over time. Results suggest that livelihoods based upon either non-agricultural work or farming are most stable over time, but agricultural labourers, dependent upon the availability of casual work, demonstrate limited capacity to ‘step-up’ livelihood activities. The scenario results suggest that population growth and increased rainfall variability are linked to significant declines in food utilisation and stability by 2050. Taking a systems approach may help to enhance the sustainability of livelihoods, target efforts and promote community food security. We discuss transferability of the methodological approach to other case studies and scenarios.