Companion Modeling (ComMod) is a participatory approach that has been used all over the world in order to help stakeholders collectively deal with a given issue (e.g. multiple uses of natural resources; conflict resolution; value chain organization; land use planning; etc.). In this participatory process, agent-based modeling (ABM) provides a way to link the biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics of a catchment system. Setting up communication platforms is one way to ensure that marginalized groups are not left out. Moreover, by using ABM in a participatory way to examine scenarios of resource sharing, it may be possible to elicit stakeholders’ knowledge and perceptions of water dynamics, stimulate dialogue, and promote better coordination among users.
The Mekong project on ‘Companion Modelling at the Sub-Basin Scale’ (MK18) experimented with scaling-up past uses of the ComMod approach to water and land management in the Nam Theun-Nam Kading basin. In this setting, the project attempted to achieve lasting impacts for environmental management and empowerment at both the local and national levels. The aim was to establish a dynamic and autonomous learning-by-doing process through the use of participatory role-playing games and accompanying computer models in order to help individuals at all levels better make decisions about resource management in the basin.
Since the primary strategy used for this project was a learning-by-doing process to understand and implement ComMod, the impact strategy was collectively designed by a local strategic alliance, brought together at the beginning of the project. Then participatory workshops used specific role-playing games, in which the participants themselves designed the game and tested their own ideas on how to collectively deal with issues. These simulation games enabled participants to explore future scenarios by role-playing their ideas and assessing the consequences in the game/model. As the roles of the different players are based on the actual stakeholder groups, potential impacts were assessed for each group and, thanks to this autonomous learning-by-doing process, ownership of the solutions were built among participants, influencing their understanding and their decision making processes.
MK18 is led by the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development), working in partnership with Chiang Mai University, Ubon Ratchathani University and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. In Laos, the local partners are the Nam Theun-Nam Kading River Basin Committee Secretariat, and the Faculty of Environmental Science and Development and the Faculty of Engineering of the National University of Laos.
Patrick D’Aquino (firstname.lastname@example.org)