According to UNEP (2002),  scenarios are “descriptions of journeys to possible futures’.  Scenarios interpret  the present, a vision of the future and an account of pathways to reaching the intended future. The main purpose of the scenarios is to provide better policy or decision support, and stimulate engagement in the process of change. Scenarios are not predictions, but rather plausible stories of how the future might unfold, based on known information about current trends. This blog post is on the Malawi case study which can be read about in detail here.

Scenario development process at Domasi and Nsanama Extension Planning Areas (Study sites within Lake Chilwa Basin, Malawi)

Scenario development processes started with listing of  six drivers of local farming practices and the associated informal learning. The six drivers were economy, governance, technology, demographics, culture and tradition, social change, environment and climate change.  From a list of six, two drivers called critical uncertainties  were identified. Critical uncertainties are drivers which are very important in determining  local farming practices but whose future is also highly uncertain. In defining importance, we were guided by the question: does the way a driver  evolves make a major difference in the vision for the future, or does it make relatively minor difference? For uncertainty, the main guiding question was ‘how much variation is there in the range of possible ways it could evolve? Is there a great deal of uncertainty, or relatively little?

Identification of the critical uncertainties was done as follows:

  1. A scale of 0 to 3 was agreed upon with women who are subjects of study at the Lake Chilwa Case Study. For uncertainty, 0 =  highly certain and 3 = very high uncertainty. For importance, 0 = not important and 3 = very high importance.
  2. For each driver in turn, we plotted on the chart using X-Y axis. Uncertainty (Mlingo wa chikayiko) was X-axis while importance (Mlingo wa ka khuzidwe) was Y-axis (See Figure 1). The further the dot on the X axis, the greater the uncertainty on how that driver will develop. The further the dot on the Y axis, the more significant is the impact of the driver;
  3. Identify the drivers that have the highest importance and uncertainty and these were our critical uncertainties.From the above steps, governance and economy were identified as critical uncertainties in both study sites of Domasi and Nsanama within the Lake Chilwa Basin. Using the two drivers, four scenarios were outlined  as follows
    1. Good Governance and Economy: Best possible scenario
    2. Poor Governance and Economy: Worst scenario
    3. Poor Governance and Good Economy: Mid-way scenario
    4. Poor Economy and Good Governance: Mid-way scenario


See the resulting scenario descriptions developed with farmers in this case study here.