Saturday, June 9, 2012

Giving rural communities a voice : adapting the "Happy strategy" game to communities

Within the multi-scale adoption studies I am currently involved with  (, we are running focus group discussion with some key informant farmers in 4 sites in the Blue Nile. I am just back from the Oromia sites, Gorosole (near Guder, Ambo) and Laku (near Shambu) where the focus group discussion have been run in collaboration with the Oromia agricultural research institute (OARI). 
The cards of the Happy Strategy game
For the focus group discussion we have adapted the "happy strategy" game. This is a game that has initially been developed to involve stakeholder into the discussion on how rainwater management practices should be combined within a landscape. The game consist of a set of practice cards that describe single rainwater management practice, as well as innovation cards, that are empty practice cards that can be filled if a given practice is not part of the game. Finally, there are intervention cards, that are cards that allow for changes beyond farmer's decision making that could enable the adoption of a practice, such as access to credit or access to seeds or better cooperation among the community. Each participant chooses a card and joins a "landscape" that is clearly described watershed, and discusses where and why the chosen card should be adopted. If the group does not agree the person has to find another landscape or trade the card. For more details have a look at : 
Opening the focus group discussion : Gerba welcomes the participants, introduces the project, the objectives and explains how the whole happy strategy approach works.
This game has been adapted for communities and is used to identify what the best watershed management would be from the perspective of the farmers. In addition we want to identify what hampers adoption of the wished practices and identify the needed interventions allowing the adoption of those practices. Finally we also try to capture upstream downstream effect, identify winners and losers in the landscape as well as trade-off and synergies.

The used approach is the following (in gender separated groups):

1. participatory watershed mapping exercise, in order to create a map that all the participants can understand, with colored post-it they can indicate land use.
Mapping exercise with the women's group in Gorosole 
2. Identifying rainwater management practices that the farmer know of, these are selected from the happy strategy game
The happy strategy cards are ready, as farmers mention a practice , the relevant card is introduced into the game 
3. Let every participant choose her/his favorite practice, place it on the map and discuss with the group why the practice should be there, the benefits of the practices and if it is adopted what type of support they got or if it is not adopted what hamper adoption.
A participant choosing a card (Shambu)

A participant explaining his choice (Shambu)
4. Discuss synergies and trade-offs of the ideal watershed
The facilitator Zerihun, in the discussion with the farmers (Shambu)

5. presenting the work to the other group and have a more general discussion and evaluation. 

Women's group presenting their work on their final map (Shambu)
The men are carefully listening to the presentation of the women's work, after it will be the other way round (Shambu)

The whole processes in followed by at least two note takers who make sure that none of the relevant information gets lost. 
Gerba taking notes from the general discussion (Gorosole)

We have been developing feasibility maps that show where which practice should be feasible in terms of bio-physical but also socio-economic conditions. Results from these focus group will be used to validate these maps. Basing validation upon an wished watershed management instead of observed adoption on the ground might in the Ethiopian context be a smarter way to validate the maps. Indeed, due to important top down policies, practices might be adopted on an non-suitable location. Other practices might not be adopted, not because they are not suitable but because farmers crucially lack access to input, finances or knowledge (which is difficult to map and take into account in our feasibility maps).
The discussion in Oromia went very well, both women and men came up with new ideas, challenging our maps and our understanding of the landscape. Finally, in Gorosole, one of the participant has mentioned in the evaluation round, that he is very happy that he was given the chance to think about future beyond of what he has and he believes to be within his reach, in a time that is about "to be or not to be". 
Discussion from the different focus group discussions and lessons learnt will follow in up coming posts. 

Some impressions from the discussions : 
women's group presentation (Gorosole)
Men's group, defining the land use of their watershed (with colored post-it) (Gorosole)
Women's group defining land use is their watershed (Shambu) in a calm and silent way
Men's group defining land use in their watershed (Shambu) in a lively discussion
A very lively general discussion in Shambu
Find the Happy Strategies website :

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