Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Third World Farmer Game

A female peasant interviewed on Mexican radio news that shocked me proved to be the inspiration for me to explore the “Third World Farmer Game” among the “Games for Change” selection.

In the interview the woman explained why she chose to rent some of her land to “Narcos” (drugs dealers). She explained she had no option as the head of a poor family; the children were starving, her husband had left for the U.S. and she had never heard from him again. She commented: “I prefer to be in jail than see my children dying…” That phrase made me shiver and reflect on the dilemmas that farmers from a third world country like mine face.

When I explored the “Games for Change” selection, I saw the “Third World Farmer Game”. I thought it could be my opportunity to put myself in the shoes of a farmer with equivalent contextual characteristics to the woman I heard on the news.

As a farmer in this game I face many dilemmas related to corruption, trade barriers, lack of education, health issues, hunger, lack of infrastructure, etc. I have to take decisions on things such as: the combination of crops, the tools used for sowing, weeding or harvesting, whether or not to educate the children and seek health care for the family.

Being a poor family is not easy, particularly in a third world country where you have little support from the government to cover your most basic needs, such as money to buy seed and tools, and secure the health and education needs of your family.
The mechanics

In this simulation you have several turns; at each turn you are provided with $ 50 dollars with which you make choices on how to administrate it, for instance:
“What kind of crop should I buy?”
You can choose from corn, wheat, peanuts and cotton; each crop has different attributes, for instance: peanuts is a high risk crop, however it is potentially highly profitable; corn is both versatile and resilient. Another choice could be between peanuts or wheat, which depends on how much money you are willing to risk. You click on items you want to buy and you drop (place) them in the appropriate area (ex: for crops, green field land).

The next turn you can click on the upper right hand side of the screen to enable calendar time to pass.

You receive an annual report of spending and earnings, livestock, crops, events of the year and a summary.

You can also click on each family member to see their profile and decide if you want to provide them with health or education or if you consider it appropriate for she or him to leave the farm, get married or have offspring.

The instructional message is very clear as the game aims to analyze the mechanisms which cause rural poverty in underdeveloped countries. It provides an opportunity for simulating small farm management and family decision dilemmas.

This game is straight forward to play, however it is not very challenging and becomes tiresome after playing it several times.


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