Quick guide

A. Install SimPachamama in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Download and install NetLogo

In order to play with SimPachamama, you will need to install NetLogo. It is a free programming platform for Agent Based Modeling developed by Northwestern University and it can be downloaded here: http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/download.shtml. Please follow the installation instructions provided on the NetLogo site.

Step 2: Download SimPachamama

Depending on your language and zip-preferences, download one of the following compressed files and save it to the folder where you wish to run SimPachamama:

– SimPachamamaEspanol1.1.zip (Spanish)

– SimPachamamaEspanol1.1.tar.gz (Spanish)

– SimPachamamaEnglish1.1.tar.gz (English)

– SimPachamamaEspanol1.1.rar (Spanish)

– SimPachamamaEnglish1.1.rar (English)

Notice that these are compressed files which have to be saved and uncompressed before you can run them.

Step 3: Un-zip and run SimPachamama

Un-zip the saved file using your computer’s standard decompression software. This will result in a SimPachamamaEnglish1.1.nlogo file as well as some folders with data. Double-click on the nlogo file to open SimPachamama in NetLogo.

B. Getting to know the Interface

 1. The satelitte view of the frontier community

SateliteViewThe visually dominant part of SimPachamama represents a satellite view of a stylized frontier community. It is intended to capture the typical fish-bone pattern of deforestation that one often observes in satelite images from the Amazon.

The black horizontal line is a road through the forest (dark green), and families settle along this road on rectangular plots indicated by a light green shade. The typical plot size is 50 hectares, but some families have accumulated much larger plots.

The parts of the plot that have been deforested will not be light green anymore. Areas that are used for crops, for example, are dark red. Crop areas will usually be located close to the road, so that farmers don’t have to walk farther than necessary. Areas used as pasture is yellow. And orange areas are fallow land. Once SimPachamama  is running, it will also be possible to set aside land for conservation. This will show up in a blue color.

Each person icon represents a family. If you right-click on any of the little guys you can choose the option “Inspect Turtle” which will result in a pop-up window with additional information about the family. Apart from the NetLogo specific information, such as position, size and color, you can see property size, land use composition, wealth, family size, and number of years since the family arrived to the community.

All this information comes from a frontier household survey carried out in the region around Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, in 2010 by researchers from Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) in La Paz. We use this real life data set to initialize SimPachamama in order to be sure that we have a realistic, although visually simplified, initial setup. Thus, the distribution of land between small, medium and large landholders is realistic, as is their distribution of land uses, family sizes, etc.

North of the community there is a river passing by (blue) and in the top right corner is a city, which is not part of the community. Depending on the quality of life in the community, some members may chose to migrate to the city. Thus, while running SimPachamama, you will sometimes see little guys with suitcases heading towards the city.

2. The Happy Planet Panel

HappyPlanetPanelThe Happy Planet panel summarizes the situation of the community in terms of wellbeing and deforestation per capita. It is based on the Happy Planet Index developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

On the vertical axis we have a measure of human well-being and on the horizontal axis we have deforestation per person, since deforestation is by far the main ecological impact of people living on the agricultural frontier. We calculate these indices for five population groups, ranging from the poorest 20% (blue smiley face number 1) to the richest 20% (blue smiley face number 5).


3. The Mayor’s Money

MayorMoney2The budget constraint experienced by the Mayor of the community is central to the game. If there were unlimited money available, the Mayor could easily make everybody very happy, but this would not be a challenge and it would not be realistic either.

In the default setup, the public investment spending equals exactly the regular transfers from the central government ($15.000 per year), so that the Mayor’s Money stays constant. However, if the Mayor implements expensive policies, he will quickly run out of money. If that happens, the community goes bankrupt and the game stops. Thus, it is important for the player to watch the MayorMoney graph carefully.

The MayorMoney graph has both a green line and a red line. The red line represents the quantity of money the mayor has available for spending in case there is no international financing available for mechanisms to reduce deforestation. This is the default option. However, if there were an international financing mechanism, which rewarded the community if they managed to reduce deforestation below a baseline, then the Mayor could potentially have much more money available for investing in the well-being of the community.

4. The Policy Levers

PolicyLeversThe player should use the policy levers to adjust the public policies of the community with a view to improving well-being, reducing inequality and reducing adverse environmental impacts.

There are 4 policy levers implemented in SimPachamama. The bottom one is Public Investment, which by default is set at $15.000 per year. This amount corresponds to what the Mayor receives in transfers from the central government every year (in Bolivia this money comes mainly from the Direct Tax on the extraction of oil and gas and amounts to approximately $50 per person depending on the price of oil). Public Investment is a broad concept which lumps together investment in education, health and public infrastructure. Such investments tend to increase human well-being. However, it is costly, so the Mayor needs to raise more money if he wants to increase public investment.

The second policy lever from below represents public investments in the creation of non-agricultural jobs. The idea is to provide alternative employment opportunities which cause less deforestation and at the same time higher incomes and life-satisfaction (so-called green jobs), thus moving people towards the green corner of the Happy Planet panel.

Investing in green jobs not only has favorable direct effects on the people who get these jobs, but affects the whole community in a variety of indirect ways. The most important indirect effects work the following way: When taking workers out of the agricultural labor pool, the supply of agricultural labor will decrease, thus causing agricultural wages to increase a bit. When agricultural wages increase, the families that are net suppliers of agricultural labor will become better off, while the ones demanding agricultural labor will become worse off. The former are usually the poorest, while the latter are the richest households in the community, so this indirect effect will tend to reduce inequality. It will also cause agricultural households to reconsider how much agriculture it is worth doing given these new production costs, and typically they will respond by reducing cultivation and deforestation.

Thus, green jobs have a series of attractive effects, but they are also extremely expensive. For example, if the local government wants to stimulate jobs in the tourism sector, it has to invest in good tourism facilities, such as roads, airports, water, sanitation, communication, etc. In SimPachamama we have set the cost of one green job at $6000, which is expensive, but still less than the average investment needed to create a job in Bolivia.

ConservationPaymentSchemeThe 3rd policy lever from below implements a tax on deforestation. In SimPachamama this tax can be varied from 0 to 500 $/ha. This tax will affect the decision to deforest. If very high, farmers will find it more profitable to cultivate already cleared land instead of deforesting new areas, and cattle ranchers will chose to sell more of their cattle instead of letting the stock increase every year.  As any tax, the subjects won’t like it, though. It adversely affects their net incomes, and thus their level of well-being. However, the effect is higher for the big deforesters (large-scale cattle ranchers) so it tends to reduce inequality.

The last policy lever represents a conservation payment scheme, where households are paid a compensation for any land that they promise to keep forested for at least 20 years. The scheme is similar to SocioBosque in Ecuador and COMSERBO in Pando, Bolivia.

When offered the option of participating in such a scheme, each household will calculate how much land it is optimal for them to dedicate to conservation, and how much they should maintain available for agricultural needs for the next 20 years. They will always inscribe the marginal land farthest away from the road, as that is the least profitable to cultivate. The income they get from this scheme every year for 20 years will increase their well-being, while constituting hardly any sacrifice. Especially the poorest households benefit from this scheme, as they would not have the financial resources to cultivate their entire plot anyway. The policy hardly reduces deforestation, though, as families will only inscribe land that they didn’t intend to cultivate anyways for the next 20 years. When combined with other policies, however, the total effects can be very interesting.

All policies can be changed at any time, but if the Conservation Payment is changed, households who have already signed a contract will be liberated and are free to re-optimize their decision under the new conditions.

 5. The International financing button

StartButtonsThe €$¥ On/Off button at the top indicates whether there is an international mechanism at work that will provide performance-based compensation to the community if they manage to reduce deforestation below their business-as-usual (BAU) scenario.

When the €$¥ button is turned “Off” there is no international compensation mechanism for reduced deforestation. Whatever the Mayor choses to do, such as implementing Conservation Payments or Deforestation Taxes, is an entirely local decision.

AnnualDeforestationHowever, when the €$¥ button is turned “On” the Mayor will receive a reward for every hectare of reduced deforestation. The award is set at a pre-negotiated price of $5000 per hectare, which corresponds to $10 per ton of avoided CO2 emissions from deforestation.

“Reduced” here is calculated in comparison to the business-as-usual scenario. This scenario is obtained by letting time run for 20 years, without implementing any policies at all, except the default Public Investment.

The graph titled “Annual Deforestation” shows the BAU level of deforestation by a red graph. If the level of deforestation achieved by the player (green line) falls below the red line, the mayor will receive a compensation from the international financing mechanism, which he can then use to implement policies to improve well-being in the community.

6. The Start and Go buttons

The “Start” button serves to reset time to 2012 and set up the community as it was in 2012.

The “Go” button makes time start running. The passing of time can be noticed in the Year display. The simulation will run for 20 years, unless the Mayor runs out of money before that. Time can be stopped and started by pressing the “Go” button repeatedly.

Just above the SimPachamama title, there is a speed lever, where you can adjust how fast time runs. This is useful as some computers are much faster than others, and 20 years pass so quickly that you don’t have time to observe what is happening.

7. The SCORE display

The SCORE display shows how well the player is doing. At any point in time, the current score is determined by the location of the smiley faces in the Happy Planet panel. If they are all located in the red area, the current score will be zero. If they are all located in the green area, the current score would be 125. However, the overall SCORE is calculated as the average score over the time of the simulation, so nobody has ever reached a score higher than 100 (at least not so far).

By the end of the simulation, the player will receive a message depending on how well he has been doing as mayor. The challenge is to implement the best combination of policies possible in order to maximize the SCORE.

C. Run simulations

 1. Establishing the business-as-usual scenario

The first simulation you should do in SimPachamama is to establish a baseline, against which you can compare alternative scenarios.

It is very easy to generate the baseline. You make sure the €$¥ switch is turned off and that the default population density is set to 70 (the latter parameter is found under Advanced setup parameters when you schroll down to the bottom part of the SimPachamama interface). Then you press the “Setup” button, and finally the “Go” button, which will make time start running for 20 years from 2012 to 2032.

In this simulation, you should just observe what is going on. Watch how crops are rotated on the plots nearest to the road; watch how cattle pasture is expanding to accomodate natural cattle herd growth; watch how people are migrating to the city; watch the various indicators available to the Mayor to understand what is happening; and watch the population quintiles in the Happy Planet panel.

2. A benevolent mayor without international compensation

In the second set of simulations you should try to improve the outcome for the community by implementing active public policies besides the standard public spending on basic health and education.

You start by resetting time to 2012 (press the “Setup” button) and then you press the “Go” button. This time, you, in the role of the Mayor, should experiment with some active public policies. Just be careful not to run out of money, because then the simulation will stop.

Feel free to experiment several times until you have managed to stay on as Mayor for the full period and have achieved an outcome that is significantly better than in the base simulation.

3. A benevolent Mayor with internacional compensation

In order to carry out the last series of simulations, you should turn the €$¥ switch on and press the “Setup” and “Go” buttons. When the €$¥ switch is turned on, the Mayor will receive a substantial compensation for every hectare of reduced deforestation, and these funds can be used to invest in the well-being of community members. The default compensation level is set at $10 per ton CO2 not emitted, which corresponds to about $5000 for each hectare of reduced deforestation.

Feel free to repeat as many times as you like in order to maximize the SCORE.