Experience the Nexus approach through a simulation game!

Publication date: 21 May 2021

Experience the Nexus approach through a simulation game!

Purchased in the frame of the EU funded project “Nexus Dialogue in Central Asia”, the project team introduced and played the Nexus Game for the first time at the Central Asia Leadership Programme on September 18, 2019 in Almaty. The 30 participants came from all over Central Asia and Afghanistan, representing mainly sectoral ministries and academia (70% of the participants were women). Playing the game allowed to introduce the concept of the Water, Energy and Food Nexus approach. Indeed, the evaluation of the event showed that around 60% of the participants were not familiar with this approach before.

The Nexus Game was played by three equally divided groups – two tables for Russian speaking and one table for English speaking participants. The full Nexus Game takes up to 5 hours with simulation of five different scenarios. Due to time constraints, the project team adapted the game so that it would not take more than one hour by simulating 2 scenarios only: rainy and dry situations followed by investment decisions made respectively by upstream and downstream countries. In spite of the complexity of the game at the first glance, the participants quickly picked up the rules and were actively engaged in stimulating and heated discussion on how to allocate available resources.

The game illustrated well-known issues and conflicts between upstream and downstream countries, the downstream countries for example did not want to accept the pollution from the upstream countries. This resulted in tensions, even between the players during the simulation game.

By taking the roles of the Minister of Agriculture, Energy and Water, the participants were faced with important decisions in the tradeoffs between the water, energy and food sectors. In most cases, they fell into the common pattern of thinking only about one sector, but that is not how to win this game. This way the nexus approach had to be used to find multisectoral solutions.

All three groups actively negotiated, bartered and proposed joint construction and management solutions of transboundary water facilities and found ways to benefit from the comparative advantages of upstream and downstream countries.

Overall, the participants experienced in reality the interdependence between the sectors and trade-offs and synergies between competing uses of water, land and energy-related resources. The Nexus Game achieved what it is designed to do. Moreover, the participants really enjoyed the simulation game, did not want to stop playing, and expressed their interest to play all scenarios of the Nexus Game. Some of the participants even enquired where it can be bought, so contact details of the respective vendor were shared.

Our post-game evaluation showed that the game increased the knowledge about Nexus of 99% of the participants and 100% concluded that the Nexus approach should be considered also in real life. To enhance the knowledge about Nexus, the participants proposed to use more simulation games, social networks, nexus case studies and practical examples, capacity building and introduce it at the academic level.

By Aksulu Kushanova, Project Specialist, CAREC

Photo credit: Aziz Madiyarov



“Central Asia Nexus Dialogue project: Fostering Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus Dialogue and Multi-Sector Investment” or Nexus project was implemented by CAREC in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature with the financial support of the European Union. The overall objective of the project was to create a multi-sectoral enabling environment to facilitate sustainable and climate-resilient investments for increased water, energy, food security and ecosystems in Central Asia. The project was implemented in five countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) during the period 2016-2019.



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