Exploring decision-making in campaign-based watershed management by using a role-playing game in Boset District, Ethiopia

Samuel Assefa*, Aad Kessler, Luuk Fleskens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


CONTEXT: The sustainability of the ongoing national Campaign-Based Watershed Management (CBWM) program in Ethiopia is questionable due to poor planning and implementation practices. OBJECTIVE: This study analyzes farmers' decision-making in the CBWM program, and mutual learning and collective decisions among local actors in Boset District - Ethiopia. METHODS: Role-Playing Game (RPG) was the main method of the study. In order to collect pertinent information during the game sessions, observation of farmers' behavior and group discussions were used. Descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis were employed to analyze game outputs. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Results show that farmers prefer to collectively work on private farmlands rather than on communal land. Furthermore, participation of farmers in campaign works was higher under a default-scenario (with control instruments), than under a willingness-scenario (without control instruments). In making decisions on their level of participation in campaign works, farmers followed the decisions of a fellow farmer they considered more knowledgeable. However, the participation of farmers in the maintenance of Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) structures was more or less the same under both scenarios. Both farmers' level of participation in campaign works and maintenance decisions were influenced by their proximity to the CBWM intervention areas (i.e. micro-watersheds) as well as their awareness and motivation. The commitment of local government actors was also crucial to enforce and encourage the farmers to participate in the program. Based on farmers' decisions in the RPG, none of the two scenarios simultaneously enhance the total land area covered with SWC structures and income of farmers. An important benefit of this game was that it stimulated mutual learning and collective decisions on micro-watersheds to be treated and alternative management strategies for the CBWM program. This revealed that there is a need to (1) motivate farmers through capacity building, (2) enhance the commitment of local government actors, and (3) introduce participatory planning to enhance mutual learning and collective decisions for sustainable watershed management. SIGNIFICANCE: While directly applicable to the study area, these recommendations and the RPG (as a toolkit) are essential to enhance the outcomes and sustainability of collective watershed management initiatives in other parts of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103124
JournalAgricultural Systems
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ethiopia
  • Farmers
  • Intervention strategies
  • Role-playing games
  • Watershed management


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