New simulation tool tackles deforestation and poverty in Bolivia

A new simulation tool designed to help local Bolivian communities reduce deforestation and tackle poverty has been developed by academics and conservationists around the world.

The tool, called SimPachamama (‘Mother Earth simulation’ in local language), is based on extensive scientific research of a real-life Amazonian community and simulates the actions and behaviour of villagers near the agricultural frontier in Bolivia. To be played as a game to inform and educate with respect to land-use decision making, the player is the mayor of the village whose aim is to implement policies to improve the welfare of the locals and minimise adverse impacts on their forests.

It has been designed by an interdisciplinary team of academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), Conservation International Bolivia, and the University of Sussex.

The tool aims to help communities make informed decisions about their forest resources and stimulate debate on the kind of development they want for their community. It takes place over a period of 20 years during which the player can experiment with different policies and observe the consequences of his/her decisions.

SimPachamama has been developed as a didactic tool for use in workshops and training courses with communities, government employees and international representatives, and researchers hope it will help everyone come to the best compromise about the use of natural resources.

For example, results generated by the simulation suggests that a domestic tax of about US$450 per hectare of deforested land would be very helpful, especially if it could be structured in a way as to impact mainly large-scale agriculture.

SimPachamama is available as open source and can be downloaded for free from the project web-site: Apart from providing a quick guide to SimPachamama, and on-line courses in both Spanish and English at several levels, the site also acts as a forum for discussing the design of fair and effective mechanisms for reducing deforestation.

Source: Ioulia Fenton | SimPachamama