The geographic boundaries of the Alaotra socio-ecological system considered for the role-playing game approach study.

Tool development to understand rural resource users’ land use and impacts on land type changes in Madagascar

Lena M. Reibelt, Gabrielle Moser, Anne Dray, Ihoby H. Randriamalala, Juliette Chamagne, Bruno Ramamonjisoa, Luis Garcia Barrios, Claude Garcia, Patrick O. Waeber


A majority of Madagascar’s rural people depend on the primary sector. The countrie’s agricultural hub, the Alaotra-Mangoro region, is mainly tied to fisheries and rice production. Increasing human population and decreasing output from fisheries and agriculture are pushing the rural resource users further into the protected marshlands. Understanding rural farmers’ decisions can help developing improved management plans to support long-term functioning of (socio-) ecological systems. We present here an example of inter- and transdisciplinary research which uses a participatory modelling approach to develop a shared vision of the Alaotra socio-ecological system. The purpose of this study is to introduce the used gaming approach in detail by documenting the process of co-construction of the Alaotra wetlands’ conceptual model. We then describe how the model is transcribed into a table-top role-playing game that will help researchers and stakeholders alike explore and understand decisions and management strategies. We finally report on first outcomes of the game including land use decisions, reaction to market fluctuation and landscape change.



La majorité des populations rurales de Madagascar dépendent du secteur primaire. Le centre agricole du pays, la région d'Alaotra-Mangoro, est principalement lié à la pêche et à la production de riz. L'accroissement de la population humaine et la diminution de la production de la pêche et de l'agriculture poussent les utilisateurs des ressources rurales vers les marais protégés. Comprendre les décisions des agriculteurs peut aider à développer de meilleurs plans de gestion pour soutenir le fonctionnement à long terme des systèmes (socio-) écologiques. Nous présentons ici un exemple de recherche interdisciplinaire et transdisciplinaire qui utilise une approche de modélisation participative pour développer une vision partagée du système socio-écologique d'Alaotra. Le but de cette étude est de présenter en détail l'approche des jeux utilisée ici, en documentant le processus de co-construction du modèle conceptuel pour les zones humides d'Alaotra. Nous décrivons ensuite comment le modèle est transcrit dans un jeu de rôle sur plateau qui aidera les chercheurs et les parties prenantes à explorer et à comprendre les décisions et les stratégies de gestion. Nous présentons enfin les premiers résultats du jeu, y compris les décisions d'utilisation des terres, la réponse aux fluctuations du marché et aux changements de paysages.


role-playing game, RPG, socio-ecological systems, land use, land use change, natural resource management, stakeholders

Full Text:



Akkerman, S. F. and Bakker, A. 2011. Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research 81, 2: 132–169.

Allnutt, T. F., Asner, G. P., Golden, C. D. and Powell, G. V. 2013. Mapping recent deforestation and forest disturbance in northeastern Madagascar. Tropical Conservation Science 6:1–15.

Andrianandrasana, H. T., Randriamahefasoa, J., Durbin, J., Lewis, R. E. and Ratsimbazafy, J. H. 2005. Participatory ecological monitoring of the Alaotra wetlands in Madagascar. Biodiversity & Conservation 14, 11: 2757–2774.

Bakoariniaina, L. N., Kusky, T. and Raharimahefa, T. 2006. Disappearing Lake Alaotra: Monitoring catastrophic erosion, waterway silting, and land degradation hazards in Madagascar using Landsat imagery. Journal of African Earth Sciences 44: 241–252.

Bernard, H. R. 2006. Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

Copsey, J. A., Rajaonarison, L. H., Randriamihamina, R. and Rakotoniaina, L. J. 2009a. Voices from the marsh: Livelihood concerns of fishers and rice cultivators in the Alaotra wetland. Madagascar Conservation & Development 4, 1: 25–30.

Copsey, J. A., Jones, J. P. G., Andrianandrasana, H. T., Rajanoarison, L. H. and Fa, J. E. 2009b. Burning to fish: local explanations for wetland burning in Lac Alaotra, Madagascar. Oryx 43, 3: 403–406.

Crookall, D. 2010. Serious games, debriefing, and simulation/gaming as a discipline. Simulation & Gaming, 41, 6: 898-920.

Ducrot, R. and Capillon, A. 2004. A practice analysis to account for adoption of innovations in irrigated rice cropping systems in Lake Alaotra (Madagascar). Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 24, 3: 71–96.

Etienne, M. (ed.) 2014. Companion Modelling, a Participatory Approach to Support Sustainable Development. Springer, The Netherlands.

Etienne, M., Du Toit, D. R. and Pollard, S. 2011. ARDI: a co-construction method for participatory modeling in natural resources management. Ecology and Society 16, 1: 44.

Ferry, L., Mietton, M., Robison, L. and Erismann, L. 2009. Le lac Alaotra à Madagascar—Passé, présent et futur. Zeitschrift fuer Geomorphologie 53, 3: 299–318.

Garcia, C., Dray, A. and Waeber, P. 2016. Learning begins when the game is over: using games to embrace complexity in natural resources management. GAIA-Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society 25, 4: 289–291.

Husson. O., Charpentier, H., Raharison, T., Razanamparany, C., Moussa, N. et al. 2012. SCV à proposer au Lac Alaotra et dans le moyen-ouest manuel pratique du semis direct à Madagascar. Volume II. Chapitre 2.1.

Innes, J. L. 2010. Madagascar rosewood, illegal logging and the tropical timber trade. Madagascar Conservation & Development 5: 6–10.

Jacoby, H. G. and Minten, B. 2007. Is titling in Sub-Saharan Africa cost-effective? Evidence from Madagascar. The World Bank Economic Review 21: 461–485.

Kull, C. A. 2012. Air photo evidence of historical land cover change in the highlands: Wetlands and grasslands give way to crops and woodlots. Madagascar Conservation & Development 7, 3: 144–152.

Kull, C. A., Carrière, S. M., Moreau, S., Ramiarantsoa, H. R., Blanc-Pamard, C. et al. 2013. Melting pots of biodiversity: tropical smallholder farm landscapes as guarantors of sustainability. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 55: 6–16.

Le, Q. B., Seidl, R. and Scholz, R. W. 2012. Feedback loops and types of adaptation in the modelling of land-use decisions in an agent-based simulation. Environmental Modelling & Software 27–28: 83–96.

Monographie Régionale Alaotra-Mangoro.* 2012. Unpubl. report. Direction Régionale de l’Économie Alaotra-Mangroro.

North, D. C. and Wallis, J. J. 1994. Integrating institutional change and technical change in economic history a transaction cost approach. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE)/ Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft 150, 4: 609–624.

Ostrom, E. 2009. A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325, 5939: 419–422.

Rakotoarisoa, T. F., Waeber, P. O., Richter, T. and Mantilla-Contreras, J. 2015. Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), any opportunities for the Alaotra wetlands and livelihoods? Madagascar Conservation & Development 10, 3S: 128–136.

Rakotoarivelo, A. R., Razafimanahaka, J. H., Rabesihanaka, S., Jones, J. P. G. & Jenkins, R. K. B. 2011. Lois et règlements sur la faune sauvage à Madagascar: progrès accomplis et besoins du future. Madagascar Conservation & Development 6, 1: 37–44.

Ranarijaona, H. L. T. 2007. Concept de modèle écologique pour la zone humide Alaotra. Madagascar Conservation & Development 2, 1: 35–42.

Randriamalala, H. and Liu, Z. 2010. Rosewood of Madagascar: Between democracy and conservation. Madagascar Conservation & Development 5, 1: 11–22.

Randrianja, S. (ed.). 2012. Madagascar, le coup d'Etat de mars 2009. KARTHALA Editions, Paris, France.

Ratsimbazafy, J. H., Ralainasolo, F. B., Rendigs, A., Mantilla-Contreras, J., Andrianandrasana, H. et al. 2013. Gone in a puff of smoke? Hapalemur alaotrensis at great risk of extinction. Lemur News 17: 14–18.

Reibelt, L. M., Woolaver, L., Moser, G., Randriamalala, I. H., Raveloarimalala, L. M. et al. 2017. Contact matters: local people’s perceptions of Hapalemur alaotrensis and implications for conservation. International Journal of Primatology 38, 3: 588–608.

Rendigs, A., Reibelt, L. M., Ralainasolo, F. B., Ratsimbazafy, J. H. and Waeber, P. O. 2015. Ten years into the marshes—Hapalemur alaotrensis conservation, one step forward and two steps back? Madagascar Conservation & Development 10, 3S: 13–20.

Souchère, V., Millair, L., Echeverria, J., Bousquet, F., Le Page, C. et al. 2010. Co-constructing with stakeholders a role-playing game to initiate collective management of erosive runoff risks at the watershed scale. Environmental Modelling & Software 25, 11: 1359–1370.

Stoudmann, N., Waeber, P. O., Randriamalala, I. H. and Garcia, C. 2017. Perception of change: narratives and strategies of farmers in Madagascar. Journal of Rural Studies 56: 76–86.

Waeber, P. O. and Wilmé, L. 2013. Madagascar rich and intransparent. Madagascar Conservation & Development 8, 2: 52–54.

Waeber, P. O., Reibelt, L. M., Randriamalala, I. H., Moser, G., Raveloarimalala, L. M. et al. 2017. Local awareness and perceptions: consequences for conservation of marsh habitat at Lake Alaotra for one of the world’s rarest lemurs. Oryx. 1–10.

Wallace, A. P., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Jones, J. P. Bunnefeld, N., Young, R. et al. 2015. Quantifying the short-term costs of conservation interventions for fishers at Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. PloS ONE 10, 6: e0129440.

Wallace, A. P., Jones, J. P., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Wallace, G. E., Young, R. et al. 2016. Drivers of the distribution of fisher effort at Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. Human Ecology 44, 1: 105–117.

White, D. D., Wutich, A., Larson, K. L., Gober, P., Lant, T. et al. 2010. Credibility, salience, and legitimacy of boundary objects: water managers’ assessment of a simulation model in an immersive decision theater. Science and Public Policy 37, 3: 219–232.

Wilmé, L., Waeber, P. O., Moutou, F., Gardner, C. J., Razafindratsima, O. et al. 2016. A proposal for ethical research conduct in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 11: 36–39.

Wright, H. T. and Rakotoarisoa, J. A. 2003. The rise of Malagasy societies: new developments in the archaeology of Madagascar. In: The Natural History of Madagascar. S. M. Goodman and J. P. Benstead (eds.), pp112–119. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.

ago, USA.

*Please contact the authors for a pdf of the unpublished report.

Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510