Research Professor


Academic training

Water and Forestry Engineering qualification.

Diploma in Geography with specialisation in "Spatial and structural dynamics".

Professional history 

  • 1983-1986 : ONF Verdun
  • 1987-1991 : DRAF-SERFOB
  • 1991-2004 : ENGREF FRT

Current position

Research Professor in management sciences applied to environmental management at the research and training group GEEFT (Environmental management of Ecosystems and Tropical Forests) at AgroParisTech - Engref, Montpellier.

Associate Researcher at UR 199 IRD programme : "Social - environmental dynamics and governance of resources".

Agricultural and Environmental Engineer.

Areas of specific interest

Forestry, and agro-forestry.

Allocation of communal forests and protectedd areas.

Geographical approaches of agrarian systems ; management of resources and territories.

Fieldwork engagement



Research activities

My research is intended to improve understanding of managing forestry and agro-forestry land so as to evolve from effective management (real impact of managed action upon the environment) to intentional, sustainable management (in which management action, and intervention is intended to resolve an environmental problem). Considering forests as multidimensional, our approach is both bio-technical and socio-geographical. The objects we study (planted forests, natural forests, protected parks, fallow lands, and all types of reconstituted forests) form a dynamic matrix of spatial objects, maintaining a diversity of human activity (cultivation, harvesting) which go from one state to another as a result of technical intervention oriented by ever evolving economic and social considerations.

Previous research.

2000-2006. As a research professor at ENGREF "Agroforestry systems dynamics and institutional management piloting", and as associate researcher at UR 112 then 199 of IRD, I worked on management of forest savannah in rural comuniities on North Cameroon. In a context of agricultural expansion to the detriment of natural forest, along with rarification of forest resources, the studies carried out in several villages revealed :

1. The spatial dynamics of forestry and agroforestry resources management (i.e. growth and renovation) and the actual management of forest exploitation and the management of forestry resources in the context of legislation as interpreted by local communities.

2. The elements necessary to model the evolving levels of resources (biomass productivity and availability) and territory (the structure and dynamics of land use, the "couplage choremes" and the systems dynamic) using a prospective analysis oriented towards defining the objective elements needed to formulate new forms and rules of management by negotiation (changes to access rights, and harvesting rights, and introduction of communal forest areas).

I carried out a second fieldwork exploration in Mexico, in the La Sepultra reserve in the Chiapas region. This area is particularly rich in biodiversity, and is close to regional water reserves. The local communities exploitation of natural resources the area is unsustainable (major land erosion, widespread use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, forest burning, increased appropriation of land for intensive grazing). The various forms of land requisitioning and property rights are diverse (communal and individual) and their judicial and institutional context is ever changing (new agrarian laws introduced in 1992, and a program of certification of Ejidaux Rights, and urban spaces property rights legislation specific to the region). In this context, legislation governing forestry management needs to be ecologically orientated (what needs to be preserved and how ?), economic (how to integrate forestry management into a system of production), institutional (what forms of local land management ?), and political (what relationship between local development and political intervention ?).

1997-1999. As part of the research group ARBORAL, a cooperation between ENGREF (National Academy for Water and Forestry Management), CNEARC (National Centre for Agronomical Studies in Tropical Climates), and CIRAD (International Centre for Agronomical Research in Developing Countries), I worked on the formulation of the agroforestry decision making process designated ARBOACLE, intended to ameliorate understanding of local communities decision making, and evaluate scenarios in the context of their own system of production.

In a continuing study of the methods of management of forests and forest resources, I am attempting to evaluate the dynamics of resources and their interaction with the dynamics of social and territorial organisation. Questions concerning the relationship between one social group and another are confronted during the process of management, and the modes of regulation, and governance, allocation of land rights, and also via social studies (in particular studies of protected areas, or nature reserves) as social or individual constructions of real pertinent plans not shared universally. This series of representations is one more step towards defining the point of view of the actors, and the justification of their positions when confronted with an environmental problem. This process is necessary when evolving from an "effective" management of resources, to an "intentional" one.

4. Published works.


Phone : (+33) (0)4 67 04 71 24
Email : georges.smektala(a)

UFR G-ENV — AgroParisTech

Montpellier campus
648 rue Jean-François Breton
BP 44494
34093 Montpellier Cedex 5