Helping pastoralists sharpen their livelihood skills

Is it possible that learning new livelihood skills could be made fun so that people can’t wait to learn and teach others? This is the question driving an exciting partnership between Mercy Corps and Desert Rose. We have partnered with Mercy Corps to develop a board game helping pastoralists to sharpen their livelihood skills.

Mercy Corps was looking for innovative ways to help pastoralists in Ethiopia’s Somali region adapt their livelihood skills to a changing environment. Mercy Corps asked Desert Rose to design a board game that could help pastoralists learn new livelihood skills in a fun and engaging way. The game rewards players who spread their risk, capitalise on market fluctuations and invest in education. Mercy Corps has asked Desert Rose to develop the prototype into a product and launch it on the market in Jijiga, Somali Region.

The Desert Rose team have been producing three separate versions of the board game. A high-end teaser beautifully designed and made from varnished plywood, the purpose of this version is to generate hype and interest that will draw people in and get people talking. It already has and will be used in high-profile venues such as hotels, restaurants and cafes. This board is designed specifically to help market the game.

niceboard2    postits  plasticboard

Second, we’ve produced the cheapest version of the game. Suitable for pastoralists, the game is printed on plastic and can be rolled up and easily stored or carried on a camel. The plastic is typically used for signs, so is weatherproof; we are cutting costs by requiring the buyer to cut out the pieces themselves. The soft plastic means this can be done with a regular pair of scissors or a knife.This version of the game needs to be easy to produce locally in Somali Region; the production plan has been made as simple as possible. Jigjiga Jet Printers in Jigjiga – and soon other local printers – have the game files sitting on their computer. All a prospective salesman need do is walk into Jigjiga Jet, pay 86.26 ETB for two 50cm x 50cm plastic printouts, print a copy of the game rules (1 page), roll the three items together and wrap a rubber band around them.

The focus over the last month has been to finalise the design for the mid-range board game. Different from the high-end teaser and the cheapest version, the idea behind this particular edition is the provide an option for middle-class buyers. We decided on a design strategy which would prioritise elaborating the game pieces over the board itself; we began designing more substantial and attractive pieces which didn’t require cutting by the user, and kept the actual board itself in the same plastic material as the cheapest version. This edition will also include a container for the board pieces. Using this principle we were able to keep costs down whilst also creating something more substantial and appealing to buyers than the cheapest version. By providing three game options, we aim to supply enough choice without overwhelming buyers with too many varieties.