New game simulates trade-offs and challenges faced by Africa’s farmers

5th June 2014
Colleagues at the Future Agriculture Consortium and the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex have developed an interesting approach to educating and influencing development practitioners on the opportunities and challenges facing small farmers in Africa.
Detail from Africa Farmer Game - Future Agricultures Consortium
African Farmer is a free, open source online game that simulates the complex decisions and uncertainties faced by small-scale farmers living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Players manage a farming household in a village and make decisions on what to grow, what to buy and how to feed a family whilst responding to a range of challenges from food prices, diets and work, to more unpredictable chance events like weather and disease. It encourages players to discuss the issues in an engaging way, alongside using more traditional research or educational materials.

Speaking of the inspiration for developing the game FAC regional coordinator John Thompson said:

“I recognised that my colleagues and I could conduct new research, write more papers and books and share our findings and recommendations with development professionals and decision-makers in Africa and elsewhere, but these were unlikely to provide the kinds of insights that would confront their biases and raise awareness about the real opportunities and challenges facing Africa’s small farmers. Instead, I thought, ‘What if we tried something radically different, something that was both highly entertaining and deeply compelling, something that drew people in and allowed them to experience (vicariously, at least) the trade-offs and challenges faced by Africa’s producers on a daily basis?”

In developing the game the team drew on a growing tradition of interactive games used in development studies. In particular African Farmer develops ideas from the educational board games Green Revolution, developed in the 1970s by Graham Chapman and Liz Dowler; and Africulture, developed in the 1980s by Graham Chapman, Janice Jiggins and Henk de Zeeuw.

The game is available in two versions. One is a multi-player game, ideal for classrooms and workplace training where a group is guided through the game by a ‘game manager’. The other is a single player game, which can be played by anyone in a standard Internet browser.

More information:
Follow African Farmer on Twitter @afrifarmergame and on Facebook.