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Applying a bio-economic optimal control model to charcoal production: The case of slash and burn agriculture in Mexico

Arrocha, Fernando and Villena, Mauricio G. (2011): Applying a bio-economic optimal control model to charcoal production: The case of slash and burn agriculture in Mexico.

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the relationship between rural poverty and forestland management in the context of charcoal production under slash and burn. An optimal control model determines how a representative household makes decisions on the allocation of labor and forest areas to exploit, which in turn affects the renewable resource base available to the community. The proposed optimal control model for charcoal production is built upon the agricultural model of slash and burn of Pascual and Barbier (2007). This theoretical model is calibrated with data from the community of Chunkanán, Campeche, Mexico. The simulation and comparison of the traditional forestry slash and burn management with the Forest Management Program for the Exploitation of Timber Resources (FMPETR), put forward by the regulatory authority as a policy of use and conservation of forest resources, showed that the former, and not the latter, is sustainable from an ecological point of view and efficient from an economic point of view, implying that households allocate an optimal amount of labor and forest biomass. This result suggests that the FMPETR is a suboptimal policy, showing that there is room for improvement in terms of the design and implementation of policies aimed at providing economic and social incentives leading to the sustainable management of natural resources.

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