Laura Schmitt Olabisi

Laura Schmitt Olabisi
Michigan State University | MSU · Community Sustainability

PhD

About

62
Publications
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Introduction
Laura Schmitt Olabisi is a participatory modeler in the Department of Community Sustainability and the Environmental Science & Policy Program, Michigan State University. She uses system dynamics, causal loop diagramming, and scenario analysis to investigate problems in complex systems. Her current work focuses on food systems, climate adaptation, and agricultural sustainability in West Africa and the United States.

Publications

Publications (62)
Article
The success of responsible research and innovation (RRI) work is as much about the process of partnership as it is about the products and outcomes. In this paper, we present lessons learned from the first three years of a participatory modeling (PM) research project based on RRI principles and focused on the transformation of the food system in Fli...
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Contrary to the expectations of promoters of organic agriculture, the adoption of the technology by smallholder farmers in Africa has been low and slow, for reasons not well understood. Existing studies on the topic mostly estimated the effect of some variables on the adoption of the technology. But adoption is characterized by complex and dynamic...
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Barriers to food security and climate adaptation operate in complex and dynamic ways but are often perceived as static impediments to be overcome. In this study, we apply systems thinking for the assessment of barriers in agricultural decision-making for food security and climate adaptation. Using a mixed-method approach of participatory simulation...
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Digitization in agriculture is gaining momentum in developing countries. Digital technology aims to improve linkages along the agriculture value chain, thereby enabling farming communities and systems to recover from stresses and to absorb shocks to which farmers are exposed. However, there is the concern that digital technologies have not benefite...
Article
CONTEXT Agriculture faces tremendous pressure to supply both growing and wealthier populations with more food, fiber, and fuel, while recognizing the limits of agricultural ecosystems. But it remains unclear whether it is possible to increase agricultural and food production without increasing deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions....
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In the original publication of the article, the fourth author name was published incorrectly using a moniker/nickname.
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Low agricultural productivity is a major challenge constraining food production in developing countries. Attempts at addressing the problem have resulted in the development and deployment of agricultural technologies, such as organic farming, to help boost productivity, enhance farmers’ income, and their overall livelihood conditions. The deploymen...
Article
Household food security is influenced by the socio-political environment, resource access, and experiential factors, but the systemic interactions of these drivers are rarely considered in the same study. In collaboration with stakeholders, we built a system dynamics model to examine the drivers of food insecurity in Detroit and how community-led i...
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Strategies for agricultural climate change adaptation are needed to ensure that sub-Saharan Africa can continue to feed itself, given its rapidly growing population and the expected impacts of climate change on food production. The poultry sector is an important component of the African food system, but national climate change adaptation plans in m...
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Moving toward a sustainable global society requires substantial change in both social and technological systems. This sustainability is dependent not only on addressing the environmental impacts of current social and technological systems, but also on addressing the social, economic and political harms that continue to be perpetuated through system...
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Adaptation Pathways have emerged as promising approaches for exploring sequences of actions to address challenges in uncertain conditions. This study elaborates on how pathway approaches operate in practice by applying a learning framework that identifies guiding propositions for successful adaptation pathways. The framework is used to analyze a tr...
Article
Across southern Africa (SA), significant maize yield losses are attributed to invasive and parasitic weeds. Abundance of Striga (Striga asiatica) has become more frequent in smallholder farms (<2 ha) in the past decade. Various Striga control practices (SCPs) have been disseminated across SA, yet often, without decision support tools to inform exte...
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Gender-sensitive climate change adaptation strategies can improve gender equality and women's development in agrarian communities. This study used both qualitative and quantitative research methods (focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and household surveys) to explore the perspectives of men and women on climate change, including cli...
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Effective climate adaptation in sub-Saharan African agriculture will require coordination across multiple scales of governance. Decision-makers from local to national scales will be tasked with planning under conditions of high uncertainty, often with minimal data. Participatory scenario planning is a method for devising adaptation strategies under...
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The global COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a justice crisis. It also brings to light multiple ongoing, underlying social crises. The COVID-19 crisis is actively revealing crises of energy sovereignty in at least four ways. First, there are many whose access to basic health services is compromised because of the lack of...
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Africa's food systems are among the most vulnerable sectors to climate risk. Unfortunately, numerous activities along food supply chains (production, processing, storage, marketing and consumption) are also important contributors to climate change. Despite the differential effect of climate events on activities along food supply chains and vice ver...
Article
Training programs for new farmers are proposed as a solution to rural food insecurity, rural development, and the recruitment and training of younger farmers simultaneously. However, evaluation of these programs and evidence for their individual or collective impact is sparse. In this paper, we use in-depth interviews combined with an exploratory m...
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We face extreme and unprecedented socio-ecological systems (SES) governance challenges given advances in technology, global biophysical change, human behavior, and our abilities to seek resilience through policy decisions. The associated demands to rapidly adapt and shift our trajectories for improved SES outcomes provide a great impetus for humans...
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Nigeria, the seventh most populous country in the world, is plagued by livelihood challenges such as poverty and food insecurity, which are more pervasive among farming households and rural communities. Organic farming is being promoted by some domestic non-governmental organizations as a means of addressing the problem of poverty and food insecuri...
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We face extreme and unprecedented socio-ecological systems (SES) governance challenges given advances in technology, global biophysical change, human behavior, and our abilities to seek resilience through policy decisions. The associated demands to rapidly adapt and shift our trajectories for improved SES outcomes provide a great impetus for humans...
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Climate risk is expected to impact rural communities in West Africa in multiple ways. However, most current research addresses resilience and climate adaptation at either the national or the household scale; very little is known about community-scale interventions. We interviewed 934 community members in six communities in southeastern Nigeria abou...
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Participatory Modeling (PM) is becoming increasingly common in environmental planning and conservation, due in part to advances in cyberinfrastructure as well as to greater recognition of the importance of engaging a diverse array of stakeholders in decision making. We provide lessons learned, based on over 200 years of the authors’ cumulative and...
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Perennial crops offer the opportunity to harvest from the same plant many times over several years while reducing labor and seed costs, reducing emissions and increasing biomass input into the soil. We use system dynamics modeling to combine data from field experiments, crop modeling and choice experiments to explore the potential for adoption and...
Article
Participatory modeling aims to incorporate stakeholders into the process of developing models for the purpose of eliciting information, appropriately reflecting stakeholder interests and concerns, and improving stakeholder understanding, and acceptance of the analysis. Participatory modeling, using causal loop diagramming (CLD), was used to explore...
Article
Various tools and methods are used in participatory modelling, at different stages of the process and for different purposes. The diversity of tools and methods can create challenges for stakeholders and modelers when selecting the ones most appropriate for their projects. We offer a systematic overview, assessment, and categorization of methods to...
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The negative impacts of climate change on agriculture could erode gains made toward gender equality in Ghana. Much of the literature on gender dimensions of climate change adaptation has focused on assessing differences in coping and adaptation practices of smallholder farmers. Mostly overlooked is whether gender influences influenced perception of...
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Participatory modeling engages the implicit and explicit knowledge of stakeholders to create formalized and shared representations of reality and has evolved into a field of study as well as a practice. Participatory modeling researchers and practitioners who focus specifically on environmental resources met at the National Socio-Environmental Synt...
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The original version of this article unfortunately contained an error. The acknowledgement section is inadvertently omitted. The missing acknowledgement is given below. © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature
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Nigeria is the second largest producer of maize on the African continent with more than 5 million hectares of land under maize production and an annual area and yield growth rate of 4.1 % and 2.7% respectively (Beyene et al., 2016). However, maize yields in sub-Saharan African countries, including Nigeria, remain low compared with global averages....
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Despite consistent gains in global agricultural productivity in the last 50 years, lack of food security persists in many regions of the world. Addressing this issue is especially pertinent in Africa where 39 of the nearly five dozen nations most at risk of food insecurity are located. We draw from interdisciplinary research to develop an empirical...
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Participatory modeling has been widely recognized in recent years as a powerful tool for dealing with risk and uncertainty. By incorporating multiple perspectives into the structure of a model, we hypothesize that sources of risk can be identified and analyzed more comprehensively compared to traditional ‘expert-driven’ models. However, one of the...
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Recent estimates indicate that 12% of the global population is likely to have suffered from chronic hunger, due to lack of enough food for an active and healthy life. West Africa, specifically across the Sahel countries, is acutely vulnerable to food insecurity concerns. Mail is emblematic of this problem with approximately 4.6 million citizens con...
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Consumption rates of major forest products such as timber and firewood, place significant strain on wood stock and forest area in Pakistan. With the country's rising population, the consumption of these two major products is increasing because of the growing energy demand, and no alternative products are likely to replace wood consumption in the ne...
Article
Acute socio-environmental crises often expose systemic problems that are linked by failures in management, environmental, or social systems. If recovery efforts are to address these systemic problems, these issues and the concerns of those impacted by the crisis need to be clearly articulated, rationally represented, and communicated to those respo...
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The impacts of the Flint Water Crisis (FWC) present municipal and state officials, emergency responders, community organizations, and residents with considerable uncertainties about how to reorganize and respond in the wake of tragedy. In addition to the collapse of infrastructure and governance systems, the community is experiencing a collapse of...
Article
Including stakeholders in environmental model building and analysis is an increasingly popular approach to understanding ecological change. This is because stakeholders often hold valuable knowledge about socio-environmental dynamics and collaborative forms of modeling produce important boundary objects used to collectively reason about environment...
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Enforcement of rules and laws designed at the national level is still one of the dominant institutional mechanisms for effective multiscale governance in most countries. At times, such blanket regulations are not only unable to meet practical needs at local levels, but they may conflict with local institutional logics, thereby creating new challeng...
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The scale and impacts of the illegal logging economy are an important and interesting area of research, which suffers from data deficiency that makes the analysis a challenging task, especially in developing countries. The present study is an attempt to estimate the illegal wood harvest from State forests in Pakistan, using a system dynamics model...
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The capacity to sustainably govern complex socio-ecological systems (SES) has been identified as a necessary but daunting task by SES scholars, resource stewards and stakeholders. This research sought to inform the question: What are determinant capacities and functional linkages that can be incorporated into diagnostic tools for analysts seeking t...
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The US Dust Bowl of the 1930s (a prolong period of drought experienced in the United States accompanied by severe sand storms) is often described as an abnormal event. However, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and impact of similar occurrences. Because of this, a growing number of scholars have begun to examine multiple facets of...
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Participatory scenario processes are associated with positive social learning outcomes, including consensus building and shifts toward more systemic thinking. However, these claims have not been assessed quantitatively in diverse cultural and socio-ecological settings. We convened three stakeholder workshops around the future of agricultural develo...
Chapter
Boundary organizations like Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments RISAs are challenged to support decision-making that is relevant to the dynamic impacts of climate change on the environment and human systems. This requires tools that foster dialogue among scientists, decision-makers, and affected populations. A system dynamics model built w...
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In spite of a growing interest in organic agriculture; there has been relatively little research on why farmers might choose to adopt organic methods, particularly in the developing world. To address this shortcoming, we developed an exploratory agent-based model depicting Philippine smallholder farmer decisions to implement organic techniques in r...
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Perennial grain crops are an example of a ‘transformative technology,’ in which the functionality and science of the technology differ in a fundamental manner from conventional grain crops. A review of the literature indicates that the motivation for farmer adoption of transformative technologies is complex and poorly understood. At the same time,...
Conference Paper
BACKGROUND: Heat-related morbidity and mortality can be prevented by protective heat health behaviors yet barriers exist to their implementation. In particular, the behaviors and attitudes of vulnerable populations are key, yet the relative importance and interplay of social and physical factors in an extreme heat event (EHE) are poorly understood....
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Interdependent human and biophysical systems are highly complex and behave in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways. Social and ecological challenges that emerge from this complexity often defy straightforward solutions, and efforts to address these problems will require not only scientific and technological capabilities but also learning and adapt...
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Soil erosion is a serious threat to the sustainability of agricultural systems in the Philippines, as in many intensively cultivated regions of the developing world, yet the ultimate causes of erosion are complex and poorly understood. If erosion is to be addressed adequately by farmers and policymakers, the root causes must be dealt with. Most app...
Article
Increasingly, total maximum daily load (TMDL) limits are being defined for agricultural watersheds. Reductions in non-point source pollution are often needed to meet TMDL limits, and improvements in management of annual crops appear insufficient to achieve the necessary reductions. Increased adoption of perennial crops and other changes in agricult...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods As local and regional communities develop low-carbon energy production, they will have to balance local land and water needs for food and energy production with the land and water requirements of natural systems. Choosing not to use all available land and groundwater for human needs will be an important part of fosteri...
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Both scenario visioning and participatory system dynamics modeling emphasize the dynamic and uncontrollable nature of complex socio-ecological systems, and the significance of multiple feedback mechanisms. These two methodologies complement one another, but are rarely used together. We partnered with regional organizations in Minnesota to design a...
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Efforts to increase forest cover in the developing world will only succeed if the root causes of deforestation are addressed. Researchers designing reforestation initiatives tend to emphasize macro-level drivers of deforestation, about which they have extensive data and knowledge. On the other hand, local people have contextually based knowledge of...
Article
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations will require reduction of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 80% by 2050. Subnational efforts to cut emissions will inform policy development nationally and globally. We projected GHG mitigation strategies for Minnesota,...

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Projects (6)
Project
Piloting a Systems Thinking Assessment in Nigerian communities. These communities are participating in systems modeling efforts associated with climate change and the poultry industry.