Applying a bioeconomic optimal control model to charcoal production: the case of slash-and-burn agriculture in Mexico
This paper analyzes the relationship between rural poverty and forest land management for the case of charcoal production under slash-and-burn agriculture. An optimal control model is used to determine how a representative household makes decisions about the allocation of labor and about the forest areas to exploit. In turn, these decisions affect the renewable resource base available to the community. The proposed optimal control model for charcoal production is based on the Pascual and Barbier (2007) model of slash-and-burn agriculture. This theoretical model is calibrated with data from the community of Chunkanán, Campeche, Mexico. The simulation and comparison of the traditional slash-and-burn approach to forest management with the Forest Management Program for the Exploitation of Timber Resources (FMPETR), developed by the regulatory authority as a policy for the use and conservation of forest resources, showed that the traditional approach, but not the FMPETR, 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 and shows 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.