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REPORT: Safety Nets Simplified: Simulated Decision – Making in Volatile Developing Economies

Scientific and technological advancements enable climate scientists today to anticipate climate threats better than ever before. Humanitarian organizations now need to design, implement, and improve decision-making tools that can successfully turn early warnings into early actions (Suarez, 2009). Poor households in developing nations are particularly vulnerable to volatility and shocks caused by natural disasters and climate change, and social protection programs are increasingly seen as important tools to address disaster risk management and climate change adaptation challenges.

Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), the largest social protection agency in East Africa, developed a productive social safety net (PSSN) program aimed at enabling farmers to better manage their most pressing concern – rising drought risk. Faced with the challenge of communicating the complexities of this PSSN, TASAF designed and then tested a simulation game with over fifty rural farmers. This gameplay enabled these farmers to learn about TASAF’s systems of conditional cash transfers and how PSSN participation can translate into added benefits for the greater community. In 2012, TASAF adopted this game as the sole extension tool for its national rollout targeting 13 million Tanzanians living below the poverty line. This paper, Safety Nets Simplified: Simulated Decision – Making in Volatile Developing Economies, outlines how the design of this inhabitable game enables this particular community to engage and understand the PSSN’s complex system in order to make informed decisions that will improve their real-world livelihood.

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This project and publication has been produced as part of the START call for research on the theme of ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’ in Africa, with an emphasis on the sustainability of ecosystem services in Africa. Objectives of this call are to commission high quality, independent, policy-relevant and credible research to support policy making for sustainable development in the region, to build the capacities of regional research partners to conduct high level research and to create a platform for knowledge sharing at the regional level. The funding has been provided by US National Science Foundation, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and CDKN.

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Research call information: Regional Research Call – Africa

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Image credit: ClaudiaDewald

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