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.
"Bolivia's agricultural sector is very profitable because land is 10 times cheaper here than in neighbouring countries and the fuel is heavily subsidised. US$450 per hectare would not significantly affect the earnings of the companies involved, but would make a big difference in terms of deforestation and welfare," said Dr. Lykke Andersen of INESAD.
“In addition, SimPachamama illustrates very clearly the potential benefits, both for the environment and for human wellbeing, that could accrue from a system of international compensation through the Joint Mechanism for Mitigation and Adaptation of Bolivia, the Bolivian alternative to UN-REDD.
“Together, the domestic deforestation tax and the international compensation payments could both slow deforestation and generate one billion dollars every two years, money which could be spent on conservation payments, creation of green jobs, health, education and other anti-poverty programmes,” Dr. Andersen said.
SimPachamama is available as open source and can be downloaded for free from the project web-site: http://inesad.edu.bo/simpachamama. Apart from providing a quick guide to SimPachamama, and online 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.
For more information, contact Dr. Charles Palmer from the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, on 020 7107 5093, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. Lykke Andersen from the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) on email@example.com or (+591) 7 650 1114 or (+591) 7 650 1114 or Candy Gibson, LSE Press Office, on 020 7849 4624, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
SimPachamama is funded by the Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme. ESPA aims to deliver high-quality and cutting-edge research that will produce improved understanding of how ecosystems function, the services they provide, the full value of these services, and their potential role in achieving sustainable poverty alleviation. ESPA research provides the evidence and tools to enable decision makers and end users to manage ecosystems sustainably and in a way that contributes to poverty alleviation. See www.espa.ac.uk for more details.