When playing helps building resilience in Mali

When playing helps building resilience in Mali

By Ilaria Firmian

I have just returned from the Mali Enhancing Agricultural Productivity/Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture (PAPAM/ASAP) project. It was  officially launched last Thursday March 20th in Bamako, in the presence of the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries.

There was a formal launch following three days of intense technical workshop involving the newly recruited project team that will be deployed in the Bamako, Sikasso and Kayes regions; all key partners - Agence de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable (AEDD), Mali Météo, Association des Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF), Système d’Information Forestière (SIFOR) - and an IFAD support team from West and Central Africa and Environment and Climate Divisions were present.

Figure 1 - Mali PAPAM/ASAP Project - Ilaria Firmian
For the first time in an ASAP inception workshop, the Red Cross Climate Centre facilitated the use of climate games. The games helped the project team in understanding and taking ownership of the project’s goals and objectives.

The game “paying for predictions” was adapted to suit the Mali PAPAM/ASAP design concept. Each participant represented a commune and sat with 5 others. Each table of 5 represented a region, for a total of 5 regions. Participants had to cope with the cumulative effects of the rains in the entire region (whose intensity from 1 to 6 was determined by the roll of one green dice) and the local rain in each commune (determined by the roll of a white dice). They were also offered the opportunity to protect themselves both with disaster risk reduction actions such as tree planting, and with access to climate information. Both these actions will be implemented in the PAPAM/ASAP project.
Figure 2 - Mali PAPAM/ASAP Project - Ilaria Firmian
During the political segment, the different introductory speeches, given from the perspective of Farmers’ Organizations or of the Minister of Environment, have been focusing on the harshness of climate impacts in Mali, that is suffering more and more from severe droughts coupled with heavy rains.

IFAD representative's opening speech illustrated the scaling up character of the ASAP project, which draws on IFAD experiences in Mali with participatory approaches, such as participatory mapping and vulnerability assessment,  for the development of local plans. Within ASAP these approaches will be adopted at ecosystem level, to ensure that local development actions are coherent and build an effective resilience.
Figure 3 - Mali PAPAM/ASAP Project - Ilaria Firmian
A simplified version of the climate game played during the technical segment was adopted for the political launch. Representatives from ministries, NGOs, CSOs and IFAD project coordinators were put in the shoes of decision-makers having to take investment decisions for a 10 year time period (“Decisions for the decade” game), and consequently allocating their own budget (10 beans each) against three lines: "regular" development, protection against drought, protection against flood.

Although this was clearly a simplified representation of the reality, participants tended to use their own reality as a reference, for example, referring to the Malian average of a drought every four years, investments were mostly going in that drought protection. Many also commented that in the game it was impossible to avoid humanitarian crisis and there was a great debate around getting the sense of how much it is possible to escape crisis in reality.

The project team also suggested that the game’s application in the actual project work with local communities could be explored.

The climate games will soon be used in other countries during ASAP inception workshops as a serious but fun way to think concretely about the meaning of resilience