Abstract for: Eramat! A Culturally-Anchored Board Game Simulator for Maasai Pastoralists in Southern Kenya

A culturally-anchored board game simulator named ERAMAT! was created in cooperation with Maasai pastoralists and then piloted with members of Maasai communities in southern Kenya during the summer of 2012. The game provides an alternative to a computer-based simulator, and hence provides a culturally credible simulation of the system dynamics associated with an accelerating boom/bust cycle of drought and hunger in the region. Factors driving the phenomena include greatly increased population densities, pastoralist cultural values, evolving pastoral practices, the ebb and flow of the semi-arid environment in which Maasai pastoralists live, and political and ecological pressures. The game encourages deeper understanding of these dynamics for pastoralists and non-pastoralists alike, and can generate conversations leading to insights on effective strategies for reducing the impact of the inevitable periods of low rainfall. This paper reports on the underlying dynamics, the game design, and the results of the pilot. ERAMATís rules, symbols and language attuned to Maasai core values and pastoral praxis allowed players to engage in conversations about past experiences and outcomes, as well as explore alternative strategies for livestock and livelihood survival.