Skip to main content

Facilitating negociations over land and water conflicts in Latin American periurban upstream catchments : combining agent-based modelling with role game playing


In Bolivia as in other countries of Latin America much work has been done to help design and implement community management for rural water supply, but there is a marked absence of such methodologies for supporting peri-urban committees. These are very different from rural (and urban) systems in term of the complexity of systems, the size of the budget managed, and the challenges faced. Such systems are also very common in Andean countries, for exemple in Cochabama where they probably supply more people with water than the utility. The Negowat team worked to develop and test a methodology to strengthen the management of community-driven drinking water committees in peri-urban areas. The methodology aims to improve the capacity of the management team and grassroots users. The approach allows to create a space for discussion and a participatory approach is implemented to find locally-specific solutions to the problems faced by the committees, using simulation tools such as role playing game and scenario analysis. These tools are used for awareness raising and training to help communicate the issues and encourage participants to find better solutions than had been tried in the past. A generic role-playing game called SosteniCAP (for Sustainability of Drinking Water Committees), that can be adapted to help raise awareness and discuss the problems faced by different committees has been developped. Thus, the methodology proposed includes the mobilization and awareness raising of grassroot users (with a specific attention to women and young people) as well as capacity building of the management team and representatives. The application areas are the 500 committees that are supplying water for 500000 inhabitants in the metropolitan areas of Cochabamba and other commuties based water committee in periurban areas of Andeans countries. The methodology and related tools have been tested and validated in a couple of different situations. They have proved sufficiently flexible to be adapted to the different types of issues that can be found in such large application domain (main management problems for water committees). They are directly and immediably usable by NGO or local developers, provided specific training. Dissemination included the elaboration of a book comparing diferent methodology to support community-based water drinking commitee in rural areas, urban and periurban aereas, a serie of booklets for managers of community water drinking committees and presentation to local leaders in the areas. The work has contributed to raise awareness at national level about the importance of self-organized drinking water committee, an alternative that could be valuable in a conflictuous context driving the discussion about water supply and privatisation in Andean countries. Centro AGUA of UMSS is part of a Bolivian network that aims at supporting the set up of Resource Centres on Water and Sanitation. This network gathers a large diversity of involved stakeholders: NGOs, University, private sector. Such initiative is supported by the IRC Dutch NGO. Knowledge obtained during the Negowat project, as well as the various publications (booklets for drinking water committees, book gathering experiences of supporting drinking water committee management in Bolivia and Colombia) will be used and disseminated through this network.
The objective of this intervention was to help stakeholders to better take into account quality issues in the management of water at catchment level, and to contribute to a dialogue to promote a better integration of agricultural activities in catchment development and policy in a complex catchmet including various reservoirs as the Cabeceiras-Tietê sub-catchment in the Metropolitan region of Sao Paulo. To facilitate the mobilization of the specific users in this discussion (in this case agriculture), specific activities oriented toward were developed. A role playing game was developed with the multi-agent software Cormas ( based on an environmental setting representing the catchment studied (the Alto Tietê Cabeceiras Sub-Catchment) This peri-urban catchment includes multiple and competitive use of water influenced by the neighbourhood of the metropolitan region. Five actors are represented within the game, which requires six players and includes. (i) mayors that have to guarantee access to water services for their inhabitants. (ii) the manager of a water company (iii) The irrigating farmers delegate defending irrigator's interests (iv) the industry's delegate defending interests of industries. (v) The Catchment Water Department operating the complex hydraulic system respecting the user's water rights. All action are set in a governance framework including water rights and quality licence inspired from the Sao Paulo state's water legislation. The players make decisions every six months either just before the rainy or dry season in order to operate their system taking into account: (i) production objectives, (ii) pumping processes, and (iii) effluent treatment processes. Processed by the model, these decisions are translated into water demand (quality and quantity), water effluent (quality and quantity) and water satisfaction i.e. whether demand is met (quality and quantity). The hydrological functionning included in the game were based on existing previous models and datas dealing with biophysical dynamics (quality/quantity processes, developped by other projects. the games have been played twice within the catchment comittees and it is planned to play it again on demand. The method have proved particularly interesting to (i) (ii) change attitudes and representations about the situation (iii) improve global understanding of the system studied, its dynamics and relationships between components (iii) improve collective and individual learning, more specifically about the significance of integrated management of water, about water quality management in a complex system (iv) introduce discussion about rural aspects of water management at catchment level (an important issue in a territory previoulsy conceived as an expansion area for urbanisation process) (v) contribute to discussion about allocation of water rights fee. Proposals to improve the functionning of the subcommittees were submitted such as training courses on negotiation. It also proved useful as a way to prepare other simulation activities as a platform to discuss modelling, representation, simulation and building of scenarios.
The partners has aquired improved knowledge about the functioning of periurban catchment from field studies and learning from the interventions. Thise include local and specific information such as historical reconstition of land use evolution in the periurban catchment studied, analysis of the contribution of the Jundiai reservoir to fosforus pollution charge of downstream reservoirs (Brazil); Impact of cold front in toxic algae bloom Sao Paulo reservoirs; Heteroneity, quantitative importance and difficulties of small farming systems of the RMSP (Brazil); Census of local settlements organizations in Paralheiros;.But it also includes general understanding of periurban functionning: For example, mechanisms of land speculation in Sao Paulo; representations of local actors about urbanization and pollution in headwater catchment, nature and importance of the differences of representations between local actors and institutional ones in Brazil. These knowledge has been integrated in a global framework or representation that allow for a better understanding of the specificities of periurban areas, of the relationships between land and water management, and of the social and technical aspects of water management in periurban. This is a particularly important challenge in Brazil where the complexity of the situation makes it difficult to understand the interrelashionships between the different economic, social and technical factors and can be an obstacle to the elaboration of sustainable solutions and sucess of large infrastructure investment project. This improved knowledge has permitted partners an active participation in different event promoted either by civil society or government sponsored concerning the development of new institutional arrangement concerning land and water management in the protected area of the periurban catchment of Sao Paulo such as the coordination of 3 workshop in ISA Guarapiranga seminars, participation with the catchment committee to the elaboration of the specific law of Guarapiranga or development of partnerships with other important actors in the sector. It has also permitted partners to develop research or development activities related to this issues such as : (i) the Creation a new area of activity in the Instituto Polis the Água como direito (Water as a right) This area will develop research, formation and assessorships activities to the priority public of the Instituto Polis (the civil society organizations and governments), establishing connections with National and International Forums for the defense of water and basic sanitation, public rights and social control., as well as integrated project such as project dealing with right to the city with environmental aspects (ii) Formulation of a research-development project on Urban Agriculture by the State Department of Agriculture of sao Paulo (iii) Elaboration of new institutions to guarantee the environmental quality of agricultural production by development of integrated project between the State department of Agriculture of Sao Paulo and the Alto Tiete water agency (iv) Negotiation project to empower the technical branch to develop a common property management strategy for the watershed s rural area.
Detailed analysis and assesment of role playing games for natural resource management, and its roles as negotiation support tools has been undertaken. RPG have proved usefull especially to (i) create a favorable basis of interaction between actors, generating empatia and aproximating actors (ii) reveal and and facilitate understanding about the different interests, constraints, values systems and sensibility to risk of the different parties (iii) facilitate the understanding of complex dynamics . The methodology of collective elaboration of the game used in Brazil did promote collective learning within the research group. Individual knowledge was integrated in a visual and logical way using a common language (modeling language) and structuring components of the model was collectively selected. But this integrative work is expensive in term of time and transaction costs. The project also contributed also to develop discussions about (i) contribution of the role and place of simulation of a virtual situation (and its relative place to reality) in understanding of a complex reality or problem solving. (ii) how to develop a Companion Modelling approach, which is problem-oriented approach, developped and adapted for a unique situation, that can be replicated in different situation of the periurban catchment, but in a flexible and adapted way depending of the question, in order to reduce transaction cost to its development and implementation in populated areas (iii) added value of desegregating complex issue in adapted representation depending of the scale chosen for intervention. (Iv) monitoring the monitoring and assessment of role-playing game sessions: Dissemination of the results is planned in 2007 by the organization of a seminar with Negowat partners and in partnership with the Alfa project GovAgua about "Negotiation of Water Conflicts in Periurban Regions" (to implemented 2nd semester 2007, in Sao Paulo). Other dissemination activities includes workshops for decision makers and technicians of NGO, and social organisations.
Uncontrolled urbanization in some areas may affects the functionning of irrigated schemes that provides important income and food resources to local farmers and urban residents. This is the case in the periurban area of Cochabamba. A methodology was developped in order to facilitate negotiations at the local level between farmers and urban dwellers. It aimed to encourage common management of urbanization impacts over irrigation canals. The methodology is based on a four steps approach including the playing of specifically designed role playing game and had led to the closing of an agreement about maintenance of canals in one municipality. This approach enables to move from a single use vision of these canals to a multiple use one, thus helping to start discussions on innovative ways to cope with the urbanization process or how to adress the relationship between agricultura water and domestic water, a difficult discussion in the Cochabamba area given recent history about water issues. It also contributed to the implementation of integrated water management from a bottom-up perspective, with supporting and evolution of representation participants as well as capacity building about negotiation.
The project has tested and produced a series of training materials materials that can be used by the research partners and other organisations to strengthen capacities in the main focus of the project: methodologies for negotiating peri-urban land and water conflicts. These training materials are targeted at middle-level professionals and students (e.g. NGOs, regional and local government staff, University staff and researchers) involved in the management of land and water resources. Training is focused on transferring and developing knowledge in appropriate methodologies for use in different situations on potential and actual conflict. The training materials are made up of a series of modules that includes a powerpoint presentation, and one or more supporting documents/ papers providing further information. All these materials are available on the project website. A course has been organized in the San Simon University to teach the methodology and the experience obtained by the researchers on the issue. The course is formally recognized by the University, and may be repeated in the forthcoming years. In Brasil, the computorized tool are also integrated in the training materials and have been tested as such in diferent professional or/ local government staff training course. In training course, RPG have proved usefull especially to (i) experiment negotiation situations (ii) reveal and and facilitate understanding about the different interests, constraints, values systems and sensibility to risk of the different parties (iii) facilitate the understanding of complex dynamics . The instruments developed in NEGOWAT Project, like Ter´águas and AguAloca are aslo to be used in academic training course -Graduate, Pos-Graduate and Specialization students of USP University and environmental education - with specialization in conflict negotiation.
The objective of the methodology is to contribute to the bringing together of stakeholders involved in local planning and development process, to improve their capacity to negotiate and to help them assess possible solutions that would enable the preservation of water quality in the Guarapiranga catchment. The periurban catchment areas of Guapiranga and similars areas hosts between 300.000 and 800.000 inhabitants and the related pollution affects the quality of water of supply systems providing between 5 and 10 million people. A simplified Companion Modelling process set up to empower urban residents and representatives to participate in negotiation processes related to local planning in protected headwater area as been elaborated based on a multi steps approach that allowes to discuss: (1) the nature, dynamics and interaction of resources at settlement level; (2) the actors involved and their action on the resource; (3) concepts of negotiation introduced by rapid dramatization; (3) integration of the different previous elements in a simulation of negotiation in a computerized role playing games named Ter Aguas and (4) preparation and planning of negotiations over conflictive issues in reality. The Teraguas process was replicated twice: first in the municipality of Embu-Guaçu to prepare some communities for their participation in the elaboration of the master plan of the municipality; and second in 3 communities of the Paralheiros sub-municipalities to prepare communities to negotiate with the regional drinking water supply company and with the municipality about a sanitation project. The game was also played 3 times indepentenly (2 with the focus group as validation sessions and once with the subcomittee of the Guarapiranga catchment). Monitoring of the sessions showed that the approach contributed to changes of representations about other actors and system functionning; improved participants understanding about the dynamics of land and water management in periurban areas; enabled a better relationship between local actors and public sector agencies; and improved capacity of representatives in negotiating and interactions with other organizations. The test have have proved that the methodologies and test were sufficiently flexible to be adapted to the different types of issues that can be found in such large application domain (main issues related to land planning in protected periurban catchment of Brazilian megacities). They are directly and immediably usable by NGO or local developers, provided specific training. It has proved particularly interesting to (i) capacitate local representatives to negotiate and interact with external organizations and/or institutions (ii) change attitudes and representations about the situation (iii) improve global understanding of the system studied, its dynamics and relationships between components (iii) improve collective and individual learning. We think that the Teraguas methodology would probably be particularly interesting in the preparation phase of infrastructure projects (for example sanitation development, master plan development, reubanization projects etc). The processand tools collaborate in the programs of qualification/capacity building offered by the Instituto Pólis in the areas of Right to the City, Strengthening of the Local Civil Society, Citizenship School, Urban Reform Forum, and has already been reproduced and used with other groups of the civil society in areas as the Grajaú, formation of educators, educators nets.
A detailed evaluation of the potentials and limits of multi-stakeholders platforms has been undertaken, with specific reference to the technical roundtable facilitated by the Negowat team in Bolivia. The findings, out of the Bolivian case studies, are supported by results from the intervention processes in São Paulo. Multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) have been widely promoted as a promising means of resolving environemental conflicts, first in developed countries and, more recently, as a global good practice. However, many MSPs have been implemented in an unfavourable context primarily of social inequities and large poweer asymetries betweens stakeholders and have not met initial high expectations. Social and economic inequalities are far greater in many developing countries that occidental countries, and this is sometimes disregarded when international cooperation agencies advise MSP-type decision-making. The establishment of MSPs should not be driven and analyzed mainly as an ideal of perfect communication and social learning, but should be seen rather as a possibly useful process that will, nevertheless, always remain imperfect. Where the context was unfavourable, external intervention proved necessary to face the challenges of design and implementation. In situations of large power assymetries other approaches have been designed, often refering to the the empowerment of the weaker groups in the negotiation. But in a facilitation process, actions such as supporting weaker stakeholder groups, or intervening in the relationship between a constituency and its representative, might be interpreted by MSP participants as conflicting with a facilitating role. This shows the needs to further study how to mix an MSP with some strategic actions based on power asymmetry analyses. Strategic approaches tend to consider any agreement as a necesseraly instable arrangement, insist on their historical determination and the differences of interests between parties. Combining strategic approaches with MSP approach could include collective understanding both of the different interests and point of views of parties and historical development of the conflict. The Companion Modeling approach can be valuable for the first point while other theoritical framework such as the theory of Convention (Boltanski Luc 1991) or the sociology of translation (Callon 1986) can be interesting to analysis the historical development of conflicts (Beuret 2006). A course has been organized in the San Simon University to teach the methodology and the experience obtained by the researchers on the issue. The course is formally recognized by the University, and may be repeated in the forthcoming years. Centro AGUA is also partner of various projects on negotiation and will use the knowledge obtained on the issue during the Negowat project. For instance, Centro AGUA has been called to organize in 2006 and 2007 a multi stakeholder platform in Punata to tackle problems of groundwater over exploitation.