Integrating Knowledge from Computational Modeling with Multi-Stakeholder Governance: Towards More Secure Livelihoods through Improved Tools for Integrated River Basin Management

Published on 5 August 2010

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Start Date: 15 June 2004 | End Date: 31 December 2008


In recent years, multi-stakeholder governance structures, such as River Basin Management Boards, have gained increasing importance for the management of water resources. To become more effective in their decision-making, such platforms benefit from access to policy-relevant information about the bio-physical and the socio-economic parameters that determine the opportunities and challenges of water use. In particular, they benefit from information about the economic, social and environmental impacts of different development and management options for water resources. In recent years, there have been major advances in developing bio-economic models that can provide such information by combining hydrological, agronomic and economic information for the simulation of different policy scenarios. Agent-based models, which capture the interaction of different water users, are a particularly promising approach in this regard. Yet, prior to the project, they had hardly been applied to inform multi-stakeholder decision bodies in charge of river basin management.

The CPWF project aimed at contributing to the overall goal of managing land and water resources in river basins in an economically efficient, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable way by developing integrated simulation models in close collaboration with multiple stakeholders and by promoting their use as decision-tools in multi-stakeholder governance systems. The project pursued the following three objectives:1.   To analyze multi-stakeholder governance structures;2.   To use agent-based modeling techniques for the development of decision-support tools that can be applied to simulate policy scenarios, while taking both biophysical and socio-economic information into account; and3.    To use these models as decision-tools for planning processes in multi-governance structures and to monitor their use. 

The research under this project was conducted in two river basins: The White Volta Basin, located in the Upper East Region of Ghana for an early stage of river basin development and the Maule Basin in Chile for an advanced stage.

For the analysis of governance structures, the team combined different methods: Interviews with experts and focus groups were used for an initial assessment with visits to selected communities. An innovative method called Net-Map was developed, which combines social network analysis with participatory mapping techniques to assess governance structures and support the organizational development of the White Volta Basin Board. 

For the development of decision-support tools, the Mathematical Programming Based Multi-Agent System (MP-MAS) was applied, which is a multi-agent model of land use change developed at Hohenheim University. MP-MAS simulates the interactions of farm households with other households and the biophysical environment. The software combines household models with crop growth models and hydrological models.

Household and community-level surveys were carried out in Chile and Ghana to generate data for MP-MAS. The surveys also provided in-depth studies on specific governance problems, using econometric methods. Stakeholder workshops were held regularly to ensure that the tools could be developed and validated in close interaction with the concerned stakeholders.

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