Participatory Modelling of Wellbeing Tradeoffs in Coastal Kenya (P-Mowtick)

The concept of Ecosystem Services (ES) highlights the linkages between human needs and ecosystems. However, accounting for the complexity of social-ecological systems in terms of how ES actually contribute to the wellbeing of different people has been a challenge. In particular trade-offs exist between different ES, and between the wellbeing of different people (e.g. Daw et. al. 2011).

Results from the P-mowtick project have now been published in the journal PNAS

About the Project

P-Mowtick developed a novel approach to explore and understand tradeoffs in wellbeing with regards to a fisheries system on the Kenyan coast. The social and ecological dynamics of this system creates complex tradeoffs for different stakeholders and between different management objectives of food production, conservation and economic profitability as described in the 7 minute video below.  

This video also presents some of the approaches used in the project.

A more detailed (13 minutes) video can be viewed here.

To explore these dynamics, we combined marine ecosystem modelling, with participatory modelling of the social-ecological system, wellbeing research (Abunge et al., 2013) and scenario development, view and explore trade-offs between ES benefits to the wellbeing of different user groups under different drivers of change. The project was run in collaboration with primary and secondary stakeholders with the aim of learning from them and including them in the learning process. The success of this strategy was assessed by follow up questionnaires and interviews.

Read the full project description and access publications

This project provided a background and proof of concept for the larger ESPA SPACES project (2013-2016)

Processes and tools

This approach, the tools used and our reflections on them are described in detail in this project report:

Tools and Processes for Participatory Modelling of Wellbeing Implications of Ecosystem Service Tradeoffs: Description and reflection on methods developed and used in the ESPA P-Mowtick project. 71 pp

Figure one explains how we conceptualised the social-ecological system in which the fishery operates, and how benefits accrue to different stakeholders. It also shows how three different approaches were used to understand different parts of the system.

Figure 1. The Social-Ecological System as it was conceptualised by the participatory modelling processes in P-Mowtick.

  1. The nature of change and the drivers in the system were explored in a workshop (WS2) with local ‘secondary stakeholders’ including fisher representatives, and local government and NGO staff.
  2. To understand the implications on peoples’ wellbeing, we held three rounds of focus groups with five different primary stakeholder groups (beach seine captains, beach seine crew, male fish traders, female fish traders, and net/speargun fishers). This grounded the research in the actual subjective, lived experience of primary stakeholders.
  3. Two independent quantitative models were developed using the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Coral Reef Conservation Project’s existing data on the marine ecosystem. Ecopath with Ecosim is a mass-balanced model designed to focus on fisheries impacts and dynamics, whilst a Stella based model which is designed to model coral reef ecological dynamics, including interactions between corals, algae, and disturbances such as coral bleaching was also used for comparison.

We integrated the understandings from these different sources through a simple semi-quantitative ‘toy model’ of the system in Excel which allowed stakeholders to experiment with the system and identify tradeoffs between management objectives and different stakeholder wellbeing (WS3). Both primary and secondary stakeholders were invited to ‘play’ with the model and to discuss the tradeoffs and challenges it presented.

Four scenarios were also developed which had a broader scope of the model and helped primary and secondary stakeholders to consider possible futures, the winners and losers, and how wellbeing of the poorest could be supported in each case.

Figure 2. Scenarios for the Nyali fishery. A – low economic growth, ecotourism, low exploitation, no beach seines B – high population, low enforcement C – economic growth, mass tourism abundant alternative earning opportunities, D – Professionalization and offfshore development of the fishery, see supplementary online material for full descriptions. The full scenario descriptions are available here.

Project findings

The combination of the methodologies identified how the fortunes of the different stakeholders were intertwined through the social and ecological dynamics of the system. Given the current configuration, it was clear that if the system was optimised for some objectives such as conservation and economic profitability, food production and the wellbeing of women traders would be traded off (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Modelled tradeoffs between the earning capacity (proxy for wellbeing) of female traders and the aggregate objectives of profitability and ecological conservation. The colour of each point represents the level of fishing effort (Red-High, blue – Low)


The participatory tools helped stakeholders to gain a more holistic understanding of the fishery and think about a wider range of linkages and drivers. The ‘toy model’ emphasised the existence of tradeoffs and the need to consider and negotiate them, while the scenario exercises helped people to think in more tangible terms of actions that could help to mitigate different tradeoffs, and promote wellbeing of poor stakeholders within the system.


Figure 4. A volunteer from the audience suggests changes for the toy model in a P-Mowtick primary stakeholder meeting. A team member implemented changes on the computer so the result was projected. Five more volunteers, representing different stakeholder groups, held up cards to show whether the predicted changes were good or bad for them.

Project Outputs to download:

  • Access publications from this project via the project summary page
  • Workshop participant reports are available for WS2 held in November 2011 and WS3 in May 2012.
  • A presentation given by Tim Daw to the World Fisheries Congress in May 2012, in Edinburgh describing the project approach.
  • Guide to the participatory tools and processes developed by P-MOWTICK
  • Lydiah Munyi, an independent consultant conducted interviews with participants after each of the secondary stakeholder workshops (WS2 and WS3). These are reported here: Post-WS2 telephone interviews, Post-WS3 telephone interviews
  • P-Mowtick commissioned the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute to assess and summarise knowledge about the linkages between mangrove ecosystems and the studied fishery for potential inclusion in modelling. The report is available here: Mangrove report.
  • Participatory Modeling of Wellbeing Trade-offs in Coastal Kenya Scenarios Booklet

Group Photo
P-Mowtick workshop participants and project team. Mombasa, May 2012

Project team

Please feel free to contact the project team with any questions.

Tim Daw

William Cheung

Katrina Brown

Sarah Coulthard

Garry Peterson

Tim McClanahan

Diego Galafassi