The Rufiji river basin in Tanzania is faced with many conflicts over water use due to water scarcity problems at local levels. In order to get water users to understand and frame their own practices, problems and solutions, and to contextualise that within the wider basin, a practical dialogue and decision support tool, called river basin game (RBG) was designed. This paper describes how RBG was used as a participatory dialogue tool to engage stakeholders in Mkoji sub-catchment (MSC), Rufiji river basin in analysing key water resources issues, and the resulting impacts.
RBG was played in MSC during three different workshops, each lasting 2 days. Whereas day 1 of the game was devoted in demonstrating and discussing various scenarios on water availability and water use that had occurred in MSC, day 2 involved various group discussions, plenary sessions and agreements on ways and strategies to improve water management and increase productivity of water. Results showed that at the end of the RBG workshops, participants’ understanding of system dynamics, common-property pitfalls, which issues are most critical and what solutions might be considered, was greatly enhanced. Participants learned and realised that being at the top of the river has advantages, whilst tail-end systems experience water shortages; community actions are better than individual strategies in ensuring equitable water allocation; local level water users’ actions have basin-wide impacts such as environmental degradation and water scarcity to downstream areas; many solutions and strategies exist whereby crops can be grown using less water; and a sub-catchment committee is required to oversee water allocation and management. Tracer and impact studies have shown that the RBG triggered not only discussions on technical, institutional and socio-economic arrangements for equitable water allocation, but also behavioural change in the way people regard and use water.
This paper concludes that the RBG is a powerful tool for creating awareness and triggering behaviour change on various water issues and the need to address water problems in a rational manner.
Agricultural Water Management (2007) 94 (1-3) [doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2007.08.010]