One of the greatest water management challenges is depletion from overuse, which is a particular challenge for groundwater resources as declines are not directly visible. Also, groundwater management is highly complex, with many users, often unknown to each other, sharing the same resource and not realizing their interconnectedness. Participatory behavioral or experimental games that simulate real-life resource use are a valuable tool for improving users’ knowledge of resources like groundwater.
In this project, the aim is to improve community groundwater governance in Ethiopia through behavioral games. In four districts in SNNPR, community members play different rounds where they each individually choose between planting higher and lower water consumptive crops and learn about the difference in collective outcome (water table levels) and individual gains (income) based on their choices. This is followed by a community-wide debriefing discussion where players and the wider farming community reflect on the game experience and discuss challenges and lessons for real-life governance of water resources. Use of experimental games as an intervention have been shown to increase community understanding of groundwater conditions and the need for coordination and adoption of rules for effective resource management, thus aiding collective action and decision making.