Pathways out of poverty through the lens of development resilience: An agent-based simulation

Yue Dou, Peter J. Deadman, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, Nathan D. Vogt, Oriana Almeida

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Poverty alleviation for smallholders must consider the increasingly varied and intertwined impacts of climate change and globalization. This calls for a resilience perspective that includes eradication of poverty and resilience enhancement under extreme events and shocks. Applying the framework of development resilience, we constructed an agent-based model based on small farming households in the Amazon Delta region in Brazil, and we used it to identify pathways out of poverty and sources for resilience among these households. The model allows us to explore the nonlinearity and heterogeneous nature of the smallholder livelihood systems, including how different household characteristics and livelihood strategies contribute to divergent livelihood outcomes. Using a unique yet simple tracking method, we were able to show the stochastic dynamics of individual household livelihoods in the face of various shocks, and how these households move in and out of different states of poverty over time (i.e., extremely poor, chronic poor, and nonpoor). By comparing traits of households that ended up in different states, we showed the need for targeted interventions for alternative livelihood strategies and key resources improvement. Different from conventional poverty alleviation programs, our findings emphasize empowering smallholders with different livelihood options. This has practical implications in terms of identifying leverage points in smallholder livelihood systems (e.g., livelihood strategy, land resources) that government and other agencies can use to intervene more effectively for households to become prosperous.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020


This research was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada (project: Socio-Cultural Adaptations of Caboclos in the Amazon Estuary of Brazil to Extreme Tidal Events), CAPES-PROAMAZONIA-3322/2013, CNPQ-455378/2014-2, and FAPESP 2017/10105-5. We are grateful to the reviewers of this paper who provided constructive and thorough feedback that has greatly improved this manuscript. In addition, we thank colleagues who shared insightful discussion and ideas for the manuscript. We also thank a number of institutions and individuals in Brazil who made this work possible, including the Universidade Federal do Para, Josiel Vilhena from Federal Institute of Pará State (IFPA) that participated in the selecting and training of IFPA students for the data collection, as well as Walter Ubal of IDRC for his advice and assistance. A final special thank you to the many families and individuals of the communities of Abaetetuba for their time and patience during the interviews, particularly Dona Gita for accommodation support during the data collection .

FundersFunder number
Federal Institute of Par?
International Development Research CentreCNPQ-455378/2014-2, CAPES-PROAMAZONIA-3322/2013
Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo2017/10105-5


    • Agent-based model
    • Development resilience
    • Livelihood
    • Poverty
    • Poverty trap
    • Smallholder


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