Sneak Preview of the Mekong Water Custodian

Developed by
Willem van Deursen and Myisha Ahmad
Carthago Consultancy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

©2020,2021 Carthago Consultancy

‘COmmunicate’, ‘Reflect’, ‘Explore’ -

the CORE of delta dynamics through serious gaming

The Mekong Water Custodian

Mekong Water Custodian is a process of inclusive participation rather than

a strict tool.

The Mekong Water Custodian’ is a ‘Participatory Regional Decision Process Simulation’ or ‘Serious Gaming for Participatory Regional Decision Making’. This project was awarded as the winning proposal in the category ‘Water Efficiency’ in the agro-water contest of the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi in November 2020.

The Mekong Water Custodian aims to

  • Capture farmer's Mental Models reflecting their agricultural practices.

  • Enhance the Climate Smart Agriculture in the Lower Mekong Delta.

  • Strengthen inclusive planning and management of the region.

The Mekong Water Custodian is a board game with partial support of online tools for the calculation

Talking about Farmer's Mental Models

A crucial demand of the system is a proper balance among physical, socio-economic and governance aspects of agricultural and water management.

Central concept is the Farmer’s Mental model to make the participatory planning process more inclusive towards local communities.

We initiate a participatory and real inclusive approach for local decision making while creating proper ownership of the tool and process.

We developed a prototype of an exploration and communication tool (management simulation or serious game) for exploring Farmer’s Mental models. These concepts and tools reinforce the connection between the planning processes and local communities. They thus help enhancing societal feasibility and acceptance of agricultural planning and interventions.

Outline of the project

Explore mental models of farmers

  • How adaptive are we?

  • How prepared are we?

  • How informed are we?

The Process

  • Explore resilient land-use options

  • Explore any underlying conflicts and tensions between the farmers

  • Explore options for cooperation

The Outcome

  • Give experts and professionals a tool to discuss farmer’s choices

  • Give researchers a tool for studying and structuring farmer’s adaptive options

  • Explore options to increase farmers' choices

  • A platform to support participatory communication between root levels, cooperatives and authorities

Lets simulate Farmer's Mental Model!!

Round 1: Land Auction

But FIRST! Let me get myself a prime piece of land!


The game board: 16 tiles of Land types are divided depending on the following 3 categories and auctioned among the players

  • Land suitability classified by salinity and temperature

  • Land scores classified by cropping pattern

  • Monetary value assigned to each land types

Maximum 5 tiles of land can be bought

Conflicts over land chosen by more than one player needs to be resolved by negotiation and bidding

Round 2: Land Utilization (agriculture vs aquaculture)

Come rain or shine, my produce this year is gonna be fine!

Invest! Time, Energy and Capital

This round is divided into 2 phases- ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Winter’.

  • Players need to select cropping patterns for each of their lands. There is an option to leave land fallow. Each of the cropping patterns comes with a monetary value.

  • A dice will be rolled out at this point to determine the climatic situation for the season. The dominant scenario of the dice ranks from driest to wettest for 1 to 6 respectively. Each of these scenarios comes with a value- for example a score 6 during monsoon will require extra budget for drainage intervention whereas a 1 will require extra budget for irrigation facilities.

  • The profit and loss for each player is determined

Note: Players are allowed to take loans/ lease lands/ sell lands in case of necessity

Round 3: Invent, Innovate, Interact with Intervention cards

'Intervention only works when the people concerned seem to be keen for peace' - Nelson Mandela

You are only one choice away from changing your world. Choose Wisely!

In this round intervention cards which will reflect the planned or possible interventions (water structure, fertilizers, pumps, pesticides) in the study area

  • Players will have to chose one or multiple interventions suitable for the land utility option selected in the previous round

  • The intervention choice must address the challenges of climatic scenario determined by throwing of the dice

  • Each intervention card will come with a monetary value

  • Study the dynamics through discussion and dialogue

Round 4: Reflect!

'The water is always deeper than what it reflects'- Marty Rubin

'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction' (Newton's 3rd law) - So reflect on your action and reactions!

  • Let the game be your guide to walk you through the destiny you choose for yourself!

Some impressions of the game

Our team

Willem van Deursen is a senior expert on integrated water resources management. Willem started Carthago Consultancy as an independent consultancy in 1995. Ever since he has been involved in advising on management of large river, both in Netherlands and international. Currently Willem is involved in projects in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Pakistan.

Myisha Ahmad is a junior hydrologist at Carthago Consultancy. Myisha has graduated from the Hydro Informatics Master program of Erasmus Mundus program. She is currently developing serious games for agricultural and water management at Carthago Consultancy.

Shahnoor Hasan is PhD Fellow at Water Governance Department at IHE Delft and Senior Lecturer University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. Her research focuses on water and environmental planning and co-production of knowledge in development cooperation.

Hong Quan NGUYEN Director at Institute for Circular Economy Development (ICED), and associate professor at the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh city (VNU-HCM). Special interest in solving environmental related issues based on inter/trans-disciplinary study and by a strong partnership among academia-industry-government.

Carthago Consultancy