Board game about sustainability designed by a research project wins award
Savanna Life was designed by an interdisciplinary team working with a game designer to facilitate involvement and discussion about natural resource management and sustainable futures in the cross-boundary Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) in Kenya and Tanzania.
University of Copenhagen and Norwegian University of Science and Technology win first place in the Ecosystem Services in practice award at the 10th ESP World Conference with the board game Savanna Life.
The board game was designed by an interdisciplinary team working with a game designer to facilitate involvement and discussion about natural resource management and sustainable futures in the cross-boundary Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) in Kenya and Tanzania.
The board game simulates real-life challenges enabling the players to experience the consequences of human population growth and other adverse environmental trends and to safely explore different alternative livelihood strategies as well as to facilitate discussion about how to co-create a sustainable future.
The GSME is world-famous for harbouring one of the world's last remaining large wildlife migrations consisting of more than a million wildebeest and other herbivores migrating across the ecosystem tracking the availability of grass. The Tanzanian and Kenyan national economies are highly dependent on tourism income from game viewing in protected areas that include the Serengeti National park and the Maasai Mara National Reserve. However, these protected areas are under increasing pressure from the rapidly growing surrounding human population and expanding agriculture and livestock production. Relations between adjacent rural communities and park staff is increasingly strained with intensified efforts to enforce regulations.
The potential of board games
Games are increasingly popular in natural resource management and human-wildlife conflict resolution. Through playing games, stakeholders can gain a better understanding of the complexity of a natural resource management problem including the feedback loops they are part of and the consequences of their actions for others. The constructed reality of the game also provides a space to explore different strategies and their outcomes without suffering the consequences. Perhaps more importantly, games facilitate discussion between stakeholders that may reduce conflicts, serve to identify possible solutions and guide decision-making towards the informed design of effective management interventions.
Women outperform men
The game has so far been played in 12 communities as well as with district staff and protected area managers in Tanzania and Kenya in 2018 and 2019. Data on players preference and performance is currently being analysed by the researchers that developed the game.
The preliminary analysis shows that women generally outperform men playing the games within communities and that district staff in both countries, who are responsible for implementing policy instruments to ensure a sustainable future, generally performed poorer than any other group playing the game. This suggests that district staff has a problematic incentive structure that needs attention, and that women may be the better agents of change striving for sustainable natural resource management in the GSME,
Future of Savanna Life
Games will be distributed to distric administrations in the GSME for them to use in their work with communities and the aim is also for the game to be used in training of district staff and protected area management staff.
More about the project