Transforming food systems at local levels: using participatory system dynamics in an interactive manner to refine small-scale farmers’ mental models
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- Department of Geography 
Food systems will need to undergo considerable transformation. To be better prepared for and resilient to uncertainty and disturbances in the future, resource users and managers need to further develop knowledge about the food and farming system, with its dominating feedback structures and complexities, and to test robust and integrated system-based solutions. This paper investigates how participatory system dynamics modeling can be adapted to groups at the community level with low or no formal educational background. The paper also analyses the refinement of workshop participants’ mental models as a consequence of a participatory system dynamics intervention. For this purpose, we ran two workshops with small-scale farmers in Zambia. Analysis of workshop data and post-workshop interviews shows that participatory system dynamics is well adaptable to support an audience-specific learning-by-doing approach. The use of pictures, objects and water glasses in combination with the basic aspects of causal loop diagramming makes for a well-balanced toolbox. Participants acquire understanding that is also relevant beyond systems thinking in that it offers a range of practical insights such as a critical evaluation of common food security strategies.
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