Some 25 social and physical scientists from 12 participating organisations in 11 different countries met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to kick-off the new, four-year project on ‘Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (GroFutures). The GroFutures team began the workshop with a field trip to the Upper Awash basin to assess changing patterns of groundwater management and use. Team members then worked together to review integrated physical and social science research plans in the 3 focal ‘Basin Observatories’ comprising the Upper Awash (Ethiopia), Great Ruaha (Tanzania), and Iullemmeden (Niger/Nigeria/Benin/Burkina Faso).
One of IGRAC’s key roles in GroFutures is to develop a ‘Groundwater Game’ and apply this in Play & Dialogue sessions with basin stakeholders. The game is entitled, ‘A Serious Game on Improving Groundwater Management through Cooperation and Collective Action’, and it is designed to improve participants’ basic understanding of groundwater resources management. The game plays out common dilemmas faced by smallholder farmers who seek to manage groundwater resources sustainably for irrigation both individually and collectively. By playing the game, IGRAC seeks to have players act out the consequences of overexploitation of groundwater including environmental impacts that can happen through poor management as well as the improvements that can arise through collective action and cooperation. IGRAC carried out a game test-session during the workshop with GroFutures team members who recommended further modifications to develop this tool and adapt it to local realities. IGRAC will implement these modifications in the coming months, after which the game will be used as part of the stakeholder engagement and research process with key stakeholders in each basin.
Overall, GroFutures will develop the scientific evidence base, tools and participatory processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It will improve understanding of the volume and renewability of groundwater in SSA, and develop robust geophysical and socio-economic assessment tools to forecast available groundwater resources under environmental pressures. Further, GroFutures will examine current governance processes and identify pathways toward more sustainable and equitable use of the groundwater resources. The project is supported by a grant from the UPGro (Unlocking Groundwater’s Potential for the Poor) Programme, which is jointly funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).