Grace Villamor, Senior Researcher from University of Bonn, discusses 'grazing game', a game that was played with local farmers in order to understand their behavior in response to climate variability, as well as to facilitate social learning.
In West Africa the most extreme effects of climate change are projected and expected to occur in desert and grassland areas. It is crucial for local populations in this region to better understand what such projections mean to them so they can develop sound adaptation policies and interventions. To this purpose, we- I and my students- developed both board and online game, called the 'grazing game'. The objective of the game is to better understand the behavior of farmers in response to climate variability under semi-arid conditions by examining player’s decision-making under unpredictable rainfall patterns with clear targets for their livelihoods with consequences such as land. Grazing game is also a social-learning tool to acquire new skills and knowledge.
Games have become a well-recognized tool to examine natural resource management. In recent years, games have increasingly been used to simulate and help human actors visualize and react to potential future uncertainties based on their existing knowledge and experiences. Grazing game is based on the game developed by Van Noordwijk in the early 1980’s to examine over-grazing and desertification processes in the Sudan savanna, with modification to match our semi-arid study area and research objectives.
We conducted a total of 23 game trials around the Vea catchment of the Upper East Region of Ghana involving 243 individual farmers and assessed respective responses of local farmers. The farmers responded very positively and by playing the game were able to identify coping strategies such as selling cows, seeking government assistance, and engaging in alternative livelihood means. The farmers participating in the game tended to avoid uncertain situations and sought to simplify their decisions. On the other hand, the game provided insights into the farmers’ rich ecological knowledge of environmental indicators, highlighting the potential role of local ecological knowledge as a resource for coping. Based on the game trial results we also found that the game can facilitate instrumental and communicative learning processes among the players and facilitators. Further, the game can serve as a platform where players are sharing their views, knowledge and perceptions of climate-related issues.
The grazing game is currently being used to explore gender–specific responses to climate variability in northern Benin and Ghana. It has also been adapted to facilitate social learning between policy makers and local farmers in Ghana in the context of climate change.
For further information:
An online version of the game is available at: http://grazing.bavarfaraz.net/ .
The grazing game is one tool in the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) program
Grace B. Villamor is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany for the West Africa Science Service Center on Climate and Adapted Land use (WASCAL) program. At the same time, she is a consultant at the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF)-Vietnam. Her research interest is in agent-based land-use models and decision-making of land managers affecting ecosystem services.
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