The simultaneous interactions between societal, natural and mixed processes at various scales make the dynamics Malian small holder systems highly complex. A simple multiscale dynamic process-based, spatially explicit model is developed that is able to reproduce observed large-scale patterns of land use change. As the main drivers of Malian small holder dynamics, crop production and accompanying effects on soil fertility and the demand for new arable land are selected. Testing of the model resulted in patterns of depletion of the commons and nutrient gradients at the village level as also observed in reality.
The developed model is one of the few attempts to actually integrate different approaches to understand the multi-scale dynamics of land use change. The simplicity of the model allows the testing of interactions and consequences of multi-scale processes, which are necessary for understanding dynamics in Sub-Sahara Africa.