A group of people sit outside on a red tarpaulin and play cards.


Dice games, cards and conversations – solving water problems together

In India, thousands of villagers manage the groundwater in their communities together. What began as a game became a success.

More than half of the food grown in India depends on groundwater. In many places, farmers pump it directly from the ground. As a result, the groundwater level is falling and water is becoming scarce. Game-based learning is providing a remedy.

More precisely, in dice and card games that simulate multiple seasons right away. In small groups, farmers play out how their decisions affect the groundwater and the community as a whole. Then, they discuss how they can manage their water better together. Using a tool for irrigation water, for example, they select plants that do not require groundwater and thus save water during cultivation. An international research team developed the games with the Indian organisation FES (Foundation for Ecological Security). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting the idea on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).  

A fair approach to water poverty

‘Playing dice and card games and having fun kick-started changes in many places,’ says Richu Sanil from FES. The organisation introduced the games in six Indian states. ‘A discussion process began: How much water is there and how much does everyone need? By the end, the villagers had jointly developed solutions and rules according to which they now distribute water more fairly.’ Educational games against water poverty are very popular and more than 6,500 communities have taken part.  

A solution from India for Africa 

Community solutions for goods like water are sought after worldwide. Following the test in India, the US development organisation USAID introduced the games in Ethiopia and Ghana. Using new ideas to mitigate water poverty is one of the many projects that GIZ supports on behalf of BMZ via the Fund for International Agricultural Research (FIA). The aim of FIA is to find solutions for small farmers worldwide so that they can better mitigate the impacts of climate change while tilling their fields.

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