Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Zimbabwe, a drought and climate change adaptation game

Bulawayo 24 (Zimbabwe): When we visited the Research and Intellectual Expo at the University of Zimbabwe last week, we saw some very interesting displays. One such display was at the UZ Soil Science and Agriculture Engineering department where a senior lecturer, Dr Emmanuel Manzungu, is developing a computer-based game that helps farmers and their advisors to make strategic decisions about responding to drought and climate change.

The game was demonstrated by a graduate agricultural engineer, Tinashe Nyabako, who is providing the technical expertise in the development of the game. The display at the research expo was the first for the game. Dr. Manzungu says the Windows desktop based game helps farmers and their advisors to make informed choices about what crops and varieties to grow in a particular agricultural season.

This has two advantages. First, unnecessary risk is avoided by better matching what is grown with rainfall characteristics of the season. Second, maximum possible crop output can be obtained. For example a farmer who grows a short season crop variety that is drought tolerant in a normal rainfall looses out on crop yield since the available genetic potential is not fully exploited. Conversely a farmer who plants a long season variety in a season where there is less than normal rainfall will incur low to zero yields. This is made possible by the game‘s ability to run different scenarios through the use of rainfall and socio-economic data such as family size.

According to Dr Manzungu inspiration came from the threat to food and economic security posed by drought and climate change that Zimbabwe and southern Africa faces. He added that the game makes use of widely available technologies and that gaming is part of people's everyday life…

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