Abstract for: Building Insights in a Complex Social-Ecological System: A Case from the Banni Grasslands in India

This paper describes in brief the process, outcomes and insights from a project aimed at helping stakeholders build insights in a complex and dynamic social-ecological system: that of the Banni Grasslands in Kutch, India. The intention of the project was to develop a tool which could aid stakeholders to build consensus on the best possible options/decisions that could lead to sustainable management of the Banni grasslands. The method employed was that of Participatory Systems Thinking and Modelling. Through workshops with the local communities, Maldharis of Banni, and researchers engaged in long-term ecological socioeconomic research in the Banni, ecological and socioeconomic information and data was synthesized into a system dynamics simulation model. Different ‘What-If’ scenarios of policy interest (such as grassland restoration and impacts of climatic extremes) were elicited and simulated up to 2050. The runs revealed a number of interesting and sometimes counterintuitive insights regarding potential management regimes of Banni, particularly with respect to the interplays between a policy intervention in discussion (grassland restoration) and an expected impact of climatic change, recurrent drought. Further, a user-friendly Android App capable of simulating the model was also developed, in order to hold ‘live’ simulation and scenario evaluation exercises with stakeholders.