A 2014 SFI Complex Systems Summer School alumna, Sarah Laborde, recently helped host a CSSS-inspired workshop in N’Gaoundere, Cameroon. During the first week of May, graduate students from Cameroon gathered with an international team of researchers for an interdisciplinary dive into the complex social-ecological systems of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Laborde, then a postdoc in anthropology at The Ohio State University, and other researchers see a great potential for complex systems approaches to inform environmental policy in Cameroon. The productive African floodplains, for example, exhibit nonlinear dynamics and feedbacks with self-organizing social systems adapted to their ‘boom and bust’ ecology. Laborde and colleagues from Ohio State and Maroua University hope to encourage regional environmental researchers and planners — and current graduate students anticipating careers in the field — to consider these complexities as they develop and implement environmental policies.
Participants in the week-long workshop included climate scientists, hydrologists, ecologists, geographers and anthropologists. The group met for lectures, then worked in small, interdisciplinary groups to address a social-ecological research problem of their choice. The projects ranged from addressing reservoir sedimentation caused by agricultural practices and hydropower production; the couplings between honeybee populations and agricultural production; exploring the drivers of the regional proliferation of fruit flies and their impact on agriculture; and the interrelations between pastoral practices and grassland ecology.