An agent-based model to support community forest management and non-timber forest product harvesting in northern Thailand
Article Full Text (PDF)

Supplementary Files

Supplementary Material (PDF)


participatory agent-based simulation
computer-assisted role-playing game
Companion Modelling (ComMod)
knowledge exchange

How to Cite

Wimolsakcharoen, W., Dumrongrojwatthana, P., Le Page, C., Bousquet, F., & Trébuil, G. (2021). An agent-based model to support community forest management and non-timber forest product harvesting in northern Thailand. Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling, 3, 17894. Retrieved from


Agent-based models are popular in common-pool resource management to represent complex systems and stimulate collective action and management, where they are used to evaluate scenarios of stakeholders’ choice in participatory simulations. We developed the “CoComForest” (COllaborative COMmunity FOREST management) model to support community forest management (CFM) and non-timber forest product (NTFP) harvesting in Nan Province, northern Thailand. The model was used as a computer-based role-playing game to support sharing of perceptions and knowledge among stakeholders, and in participatory simulations to explore future CFM scenarios. The Unified Modelling Language was used to build the conceptual model, subsequently implemented under the CORMAS (COmmon-pool Resource and Multi-Agent System) simulation platform. Several tests were conducted in the laboratory for verification and calibration before using this tool with 21 diverse stakeholders during a field workshop. Three different participatory gaming and simulation sessions were organized. The first one focused on the co-validation of the model with participants. They accepted most of the model functionalities and the scheduling of the rounds of play. The model was used in the subsequent two sessions to simulate the scenarios of firebreak establishment and introduction of outsiders intensively harvesting NTFPs, respectively. The results showed that the intensive harvesting practices of outsiders accelerated the depletion of resources, whereas the prevention of wildfire by establishing firebreaks could increase the resource availability in the landscape. The debriefing session at the end of the workshop focused on the analysis of simulation results and the relationships between the players’ decision-making and their actual circumstances. Individual in-depth interviews conducted after the workshop helped to evaluate the use of this model with local stakeholders. Most participants considered the model as a useful common representation of the system they manage collectively. Its use in participatory simulations facilitated communication among the stakeholders searching for an adapted and acceptable collective action plan to improve CFM at the sub-district level in order to prevent the overharvesting of NTFPs by outsiders.

Article Full Text (PDF)


Armitage, D. (2005). Adaptive capacity and community-based natural resource management. Environmental Management, 35(6), 703–715.

Armitage, D. R., Plummer, R., Berkes, F., Arthur, R. I., Charles, A. T., Davidson-Hunt, I. J., Diduck, A. P., Doubleday, N. C., Johnson, D. S., Marschke, M., McConney, P., Pinkerton, E. W., & Wollenberg, E. K. (2009). Adaptive co-management for social-ecological complexity. The Ecological Society of America, 7(2), 95–102.

Bah, A., Touré, I., Le Page, C., Ickowicz, A., & Diop, A. T. (2006). An agent-based model to understand the multiple uses of land and resources around drillings in Sahel. Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 44, 513–534.

Bakhanova, E., Garcia, J. A., Raffe, W. L., & Voinov, A. (2020). Targeting social learning and engagement: what serious games and gamification can offer to participatory modeling. Environmental Modelling & Software, 134, 104846.

Barnaud, C., Le Page, C., Dumrongrojwatthana, P., & Trébuil, G. (2013). Spatial representations are not neutral: lessons from a participatory agent-based modelling process in a land-use conflict. Environmental Modelling & Software, 45, 150–159.

Barnaud, C., Promburom, T., Trébuil, G., & Bousquet, F. (2007). An evolving simulation and gaming process to facilitate adaptive watershed management in mountain northern Thailand. Simulation & Gaming, 38(3), 398–420.

Barnaud, C., Van Paassen, A., Trébuil, G., Promburom, T., & Bousquet, F. (2010). Dealing with power games in a Companion Modelling process: lessons from community water management in Thailand highlands. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 16(1), 55–74.

Barreteau, O., & Abrami, G. (2007). Variable time scales, agent-based models, and role-playing games: the PIEPLUE river basin management game. Simulation & Gaming, 38(3), 364–381.

Barreteau, O., Abrami, G., Daré, W., Du Toit, D., Ferrand, N., Garin, P., Souchère, V., Popova, A., & Werey, C. (2012). Collaborative modelling as a boundary institution to handle institutional complexities in water management. In H. A. Karl, L. Scarlett, J. C. Vargas-Moreno, & M. Flaxman (Eds.), Restoring Lands – Coordinating Science, Politics and Action: complexities of climate and governance (pp. 109–127). Springer Science & Business Media.

Barreteau, O., Antona, M., D’Aquino, P., Aubert, S., Boissau, S., Bousquet, F., Daré, W., Étienne, M., Le Page, C., Mathevet, R., Trébuil, G., & Weber, J. (2003a). Our companion modelling approach. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 6(2), 1.

Barreteau, O., Bousquet, F., & Attonaty, J.-M. (2001). Role-playing games for opening the black box of multi-agent systems: methods and lessons of its application to Senegal River Valley irrigated systems. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 4(2), 5.

Barreteau, O., Le Page, C., & D’Aquino, P. (2003b). Role-playing games, models and negotiation processes. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 6(2), 10.

Berman, M., Nicolson, C., Kofinas, G., Tetlichi, J., & Martin, S. (2004). Adaptation and sustainability in a small Arctic community: results of an agent-based simulation model. Arctic, 57(4), 401–414.

Bharwani, S., Besa, M. C., Taylor, R., Fischer, M. Devisscher, T., & Kenfack, C. (2015). Identifying salient drivers of livelihood decision-making in the forest communities of Cameroon: adding value to social simulation models. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 18(1), 3.

Bommel, P., Bécu, N., Le Page, C., & Bousquet, F. (2016). Cormas: an agent-based simulation platform for coupling human decisions with computerized dynamics. In T. Kaneda, H. Kanegae, Y. Toyoda, & P. Rizzi (Eds.), Simulation and Gaming in the Network Society (pp. 387–410). Singapore: Springer.

Booch, G., Rumbaugh, J., & Jacobson, I. (1997). UML Notation Guide, Version 1.1. Retrieved from Adoptions.htm

Bousquet, F., & Le Page, C. (2004). Multi-agent simulations and ecosystem management: a review. Ecological Modelling, 176, 313–332.

Bousquet, F., Bakam, I., Proton, H., & Le Page, C. (1998). Cormas: common-pool resources and multi-agent systems. In Tasks and Methods in Applied Artificial Intelligence (pp. 826–837). The 11th International Conference on Industrial and Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems IEA-98-AIE Benicàssim, 1–4 June 1998, Castellón, Spain.

Bousquet, F., Barreteau, O., D’Aquino, P., Étienne, M., Boissau, S., Aubert, S., Le Page, C., Babin, D., & Castella, J. C. (2002). Multi-agent systems and role games: collective learning processes for ecosystem management. In M. A. Janssen (Ed.), Complexity and Ecosystem Management – The Theory and Practice of Multi-Agent Systems (pp. 248–285). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Burton, V. J., & Eggleton, P. (2016). Microhabitat heterogeneity enhances soil macrofauna and plant species diversity in an Ash – Field Maple woodland. European Journal of Soil Biology, 75, 97–106.

Campo, P. C., Mendoza, G. A., Guizol, P., Villanueva, T. R., & Bousquet, F. (2009). Exploring management strategies for community-based forests using multi-agent systems: a case study in Palawan, Philippines. Journal of Environmental Management, 90, 3607–3615.

Cundill, G., & Fabricius, C. (2010). Monitoring the governance dimension of natural resource co-management. Ecology and Society, 15(1), 15.

Daré, W., Venot, J.-P., Le Page, C., & Aduna, A. (2018). Problemshed or watershed? Participatory modeling towards IWRM in north Ghana. Water, 10, 721.

Drogoul, A., & Ferber, J. (1994). Multi-agent simulation as a tool for studying emergent processes in societies. In N. Gilbert, & J. Doran (Eds.), Simulating Societies: the computer simulation of social phenomena (pp. 127–142). London, UK: UCL Press.

Dumrongrojwatthana, P., Le Page, C., Gajaseni, N., & Trébuil, G. (2011). Co-constructing an agent-based model to mediate land use conflict between herders and foresters in northern Thailand. Journal of Land Use Science, 6(2–3), 101–120.

Edwards, P., Sharma-Wallace, L., Wreford, A., Holt, L., Cradock-Henry, N. A., Flood, S., & Velarde, S. J. (2019). Tools for adaptive governance for complex social-ecological systems: a review of role-playing-games as serious games at the community-policy interface. Environmental Research Letters, 14, 113002.

Étienne, M. (Ed). (2014). Companion Modelling: a participatory approach to support sustainable development. The Netherlands: Springer Netherlands.

Étienne, M., Le Page, C., & Cohen, M. (2003). A step-by-step approach to building land management scenarios based on multiple viewpoints on multi-agent system simulations. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 6(2), 2.

Ferrand, N., Farolfi, S., Abrami, G., & Du Toit, D. (2009). WAT-A-GAME: sharing water and policies in your own basin. In ISAGA 2009. The 40th Annual Conference of International Simulation and Gaming Association, 29 June–3 July 2009, Singapore, Singapore.

Folke, C., Carpenter, S. R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T., & Rockström, J. (2010). Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecology and Society, 15(4), 20.

Fraser, E. D. G., Dougill, A. J., Mabee, W. E., Reed, M., & McAlpine, P. (2006). Bottom up and top down: analysis of participatory processes for sustainability indicator identification as a pathway to community empowerment and sustainable environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 78, 114–127.

Gauli, K., & Hauser, M. (2009). Pro-poor commercial management of non-timber forest products in Nepal’s community forest user groups: factors for success. Mountain Research and Development, 29(4), 298–307.

Gleizes, M.-P., Camps, V., Karageorgos, A., & Di Marzo Serugendo, G. (2011). Agents and multi-agent systems. In G. Di Marzo Serugendo, M.-P. Gleizes, & A. Karageorgos (Eds.), Self-organising Software: from natural to artificial adaptation, pp. 105–119. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

Grimm, V., Berger, U., Bastiansen, F., Eliassen, S., Ginot, V., Giske, J., John, G.-C., Grand, T., Heinz, S. K., Huse, G., Huth, A., Jepsen, J. U., Jørgensen, C., Mooij, W. M., Müller, B., Pe’er, G., Piou, C., Railsback, S. F., Robbins, A. M., Robbins, M. M., Rossmanith, E., Rüger, N., Strand, E., Souissi, S., Stillman, R. A., Vabø, R., Visser U., & DeAngelis, D. L. (2006). A standard protocol for describing individual-based and agent-based models. Ecological Modelling, 198, 115–126.

Grimm, V., Berger, U., DeAngelis, D. L., Polhill, J. G., Giske, J., & Railsback, S. F. (2010). The ODD protocol: a review and first update. Ecological Modelling, 221, 2760–2768.

Herrero, P., Dedeurwaerdere, T., & Osinski, A. (2019). Design features for social learning in transformative transdisciplinary research. Sustainability Science, 14, 751–769.

Hess, C., & Ostrom, E. (2003). Ideas, Artifacts, and Facilities: Information as a Common-Pool Resource. Law and Contemporary Problems, 66(1/2), 111–145.

Hurlbert, M., & Gupta, J. (2015). The split ladder of participation: a diagnostic, strategic, and evaluation tool to assess when participation is necessary. Environmental Science & Policy, 50, 100–113.

Janssen, M. A., & Ostrom, E. (2006). Empirically based, agent-based models. Ecology and Society, 11(2), 37.

Khadka, C., & Vacik, H. (2012). Comparing a top-down and bottom-up approach in the identification of criteria and indicators for sustainable community forest management in Nepal. Forestry, 85(1), 145–158.

Laurance, W. F. (2008). Theory meets reality: how habitat fragmentation research has transcended island biogeographic theory. Biological Conservation, 141, 1731–1744.

Le, Q. B., Park, S. J., Vlek, P. L. G., & Cremers, A. B. (2008). Land-use dynamic simulator (LUDAS): a multi-agent system model for simulating spatio-temporal dynamics of coupled human-landscape system. I. Structure and theoretical specification. Ecological Informatics, 3(2), 135–153.

Le Page, C., Dray, A., Perez, P., & Garcia, C. (2016). Exploring how knowledge and communication influence natural resources management with ReHab. Simulation & Gaming, 47(2), 257–284.

Le Page, C., & Perrotton, A. (2018). KILT: A modelling approach based on participatory agent-based simulation of stylized socio-ecosystems to stimulate social learning with local stakeholders. In G. Dimuro, & L. Antunes (Eds.), Multi-Agent Based Simulation XVIII, International Workshop, MABS 2017 (pp. 31–44). Springer, Cham.

Lippe, M., Bithell, M., Gotts, N., Natalini, D., Barbrook-Johnson, P., Giupponi, C., Hallier, M., Hofstede, G. J., Le Page, C., Matthews, R. B., Schlüter, M., Smith, P., Teglio, A. & Thellmann, K. (2019). Using agent-based modelling to simulate social-ecological systems across scales. GeoInformatica, 23(2), 269–298.

MacArthur, R. H., & Wilson, E. O. (2001). The Theory of Island Biogeography. USA: Princeton University Press.

Myllyviita, T., Hujala, T., Kangas, A., Eyvindson, K., Sironen, S., Leskinen, P., & Kurttila, M. (2014). Mixing methods – assessment of potential benefits for natural resources planning. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 29(Supplement 1), 20–29.

Nantasen, N., Panyain, T., Thanatheerabunjong, B., Klinchan, P., Maruean, I., Nongchang, P., Wichalek, H., Pila, T, Runnawut, K., & Wichalek, J. (2005). Social collaboration for forest and water resource management at Lainan Sub-district, Wiang Sa District, Nan Province. Research Report for Locality, Thailand Research Fund. [In Thai].

National Statistical Office. (2020). National statistical report. [In Thai]. Retrieved from

Nayak, P. K., & Berkes, F. (2008). Politics of co-optation: community forest management versus joint forest management in Orissa, India. Environmental Management, 41, 707–718.

Ostrom, E. (2009). A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science, 325(5939), 419–422.

Promburom, P., & Bommel, P. (2005). Participatory multi-agent system modeling for collective watershed management in northern Thailand: a Companion Modeling method. In V. Kachitvichyanukul, U. Purintrapiban, & P. Utayopas (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2005 International Conference on Simulation & Modeling (pp. 453–460), 17–19 January 2005, Bangkok, Thailand.

Promburom, P. (2010). Companion Modelling and Watershed Management in Northern Thailand: the importance of local networks. Doctoral Thesis, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France.

Purnomo, H., & Guizol, P. (2006). Simulating forest plantation co-management with a multi-agent system. Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 44, 535–552.

Robinson, D. T., Brown, D. G., Parker, D. C., Schreinemachers, P., Janssen, M. A., Huigen, M., Wittmer, H., Gotts, N., Promburom, P., Irwin, E., Berger, T., Gatzweiler, F., & Barnaud, C. (2007). Comparison of empirical methods, for building agent-based models in land use science. Journal of Land Use Science, 2(1), 31–55.

Ruankaew, N., Le Page, C., Dumrongrojwatthana, P., Barnaud, C., Gajaseni, N., Van Paassen, A., & Trébuil, G. (2010). Companion Modelling for integrated renewable resource management: a new collaborative approach to create common values for sustainable development. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 17(1), 15–23.

Salam, M. D. A., Noguchi, T., & Pothitan, R. (2006). Community forest management in Thailand: current situation and dynamics in the context of sustainable development. New Forests, 31, 273–291.

Schultz, L., Duit, A., & Folke, C. (2011). Participation, adaptive co-management, and management performance in the world network of biosphere reserves. World Development, 39(4), 662–671.

Schulze, J., Müller, B., Groeneveld, J., & Grimm, V. (2017). Agent-based modelling of social-ecological systems: achievements, challenges, and a way forward. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 20(2), 8.

Simon, C., & Étienne, M. (2010). A companion modelling approach applied to forest management planning. Environmental Modelling & Software, 25(11), 1371–1384.

Sun, Z., & Müller, D. (2013). A framework for modelling payments for ecosystem services with agent-based models, Bayesian belief networks and opinion dynamics models. Environmental Modelling & Software, 45, 15–28.

Thavikulwat, P. (2009). Social choice in a computer-assisted simulation. Simulation & Gaming, 40(4), 488–512.

Trébuil, G., Bousquet, F., Ekasingh, B., Baron, C., & Le Page, C. (2005). A multi-agent model linked to a GIS to explore the relationship between crop diversification and the risk of land degradation in northern Thailand highlands. In F. Bousquet, G. Trébuil, & B. Hardy (Eds.), Companion Modeling and Multi-Agent Systems for Integrated Natural Resource Management in Asia (pp. 167–190). Los Baños, The Philippines: International Rice Research Institute.

Van Bruggen, A., Nikolic, I., & Kwakkel, J. (2019). Modeling with stakeholders for transformative change. Sustainability, 11(3), 825.

Van Noordwijk, M. (2002). Scaling trade-offs between crop productivity, carbon stocks and biodiversity in shifting cultivation landscape mosaics: the FALLOW model. Ecological Modelling, 149(1–2), 113–126.

Villamor, G. B., Le, Q. B., Djanibekov, U., Van Noordwijk, M., & Vlek, P. L. G. (2014). Biodiversity in rubber agroforests, carbon emissions, and rural livelihoods: an agent-based model of land-use dynamics in lowland Sumatra. Environmental Modelling & Software, 61, 151–165.

Whitfield, S., Geist, H. J., & Ioris, A. A. R. (2011). Deliberative assessment in complex socioecological systems: recommendations for environmental assessment in drylands. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 183, 465–483.

Williams, B. K. (2011). Adaptive management of natural resources–framework and issues. Journal of Environmental Management, 92, 1346–1353.

Wimolsakcharoen, W., Dumrongrojwatthana, P., & Trébuil, G. (2020). Production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and diversity of harvesters’ practices and decision-making processes in northern Thailand community forests. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 343, 39–52.

Wise, S., & Crooks, A. T. (2012). Agent-based modeling for community resource management: acequia-based agriculture. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 36, 562–572.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Wuthiwong Wimolsakcharoen, Pongchai Dumrongrojwatthana, Christophe Le Page, François Bousquet, Guy Trébuil