Nyama-Nyama | A game taking sustainable hunting seriously

Science at work 15 June 2022
CIRAD has acknowledged expertise in building participatory approaches. This prompted the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme in Gabon, in which CIRAD is a partner, to task its experts with developing a role play game to involve villagers in the collective management of shared wildlife resources. We look at how it works, and how it has been received.
Nyama-Nyama is a role play game developed by CIRAD to support collective management of shared wildlife resources Photo: Arthur Perrotton (CIRAD)
Nyama-Nyama is a role play game developed by CIRAD to support collective management of shared wildlife resources Photo: Arthur Perrotton (CIRAD)

Nyama-Nyama is a role play game developed by CIRAD to support collective management of shared wildlife resources © A. Perrotton, CIRAD

“Serious games” are increasingly being used in projects to facilitate collective management of natural resources. They are intended to be fun, while fostering debate and collective learning. CIRAD has developed several such tools, notably TerriStories®, a participatory management game, and has substantial experience of building participatory approaches.

This led the SWM Programme team in Gabon, which is coordinated by CIRAD, to ask CIRAD’s experts to develop a game to help communities draft their own hunting management plans. The overall aim of the project is to involve villagers in the collective management of their wildlife resources.

A role play game to simulate hunting practices

In Nyama-Nyama, the game developed by CIRAD’s experts, participants play the role of hunters, taking turns to go on “hunting trips”. It is played in two stages. The first stage involves each player hunting for him- or herself”, with no communication between players. There are four rounds, and each player chooses where they want to hunt. Beads are used to represent different types of animals that can be hunted. After each round, the beads are topped up to simulate the natural regeneration of species. In the second stage, players are allowed to communicate and work together to manage their activities and natural resources collectively, and come up with community rather than individual solutions.

An “anything goes” approach is not sustainable

The game has been tested at a number of workshops with communities in Mulundu Department, Gabon. The results are promising. After the first game, the populations of certain species shrank dramatically, proving that an “anything goes” approach is not sustainable. During the second game, some players favoured individual quotas, others suggested rotating hunting zones to allow for regeneration, while some failed to see the point of management practices since they, their parents and their grandparents have been hunting without them for decades. As one participant was heard to joke to another: “What? I’m supposed to stand by while a gazelle wanders past?”. Nevertheless, after several games, a consensus was reached, enabling the reconstitution of the stocks of certain species.

The game did not produce a management plan, but it did lay the foundations. Firstly, it triggered valuable discussions between players about whether and how hunting should be regulated. Secondly, it introduced key sustainable management concepts around collective action, indicators and monitoring, and quotas. Thirdly, it revealed the diversity of views among the players, which reflects the reality of different views within a community and the need to reach a workable consensus. As one player put it, “The game teaches us many things. It gives us ways of managing wildlife… so we can work together”.

What next?

Participatory drafting of management plans is challenging and requires cooperation between stakeholders with a range of interests. There is a need to further refine the Nyama-Nyama game, but the signs are promising, and further sessions are planned with communities participating in the SWM programme.


SWM Programme in Gabon

This field work in Gabon is part of the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme, which aims to improve the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in forest, savannah and wetland ecosystems. The SWM Programme is an Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) initiative funded by the European Union with co-funding from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency (AFD). It is being implemented in 15 countries, by a consortium of four partners (FAO, CIFOR, CIRAD and WCS).