Simulating the reality of small-scale farmers
African Farmer is a computer simulation game which puts players directly into a farming community, exploring the challenges and choices of agriculture in Africa.
The game is being developed by the Future Agricultures Consortium as an educational tool for students and professionals. It is due to be launched early in 2013.
In African Farmer, players are assigned to farming households, where they have to manage resources to feed and educate household members. The game also involves:
- negotiating over labour and trade goods at the market or with other players
- making decisions on crop management, labour and household nutrition
- responding to chance events (e.g. drought, crop pests, illness)
During the game, players are kept informed on how well they are performing for their family’s health and education, wealth, farm management and social standing, etc. The game typically involves a facilitator, who guides the participants and makes adjustments during play.
What the game is for
African Farmer will be a tool for students and professionals to understand the complexity of life as a small-scale farmer. It will bring to life issues around agricultural change which people may have studied at a theoretical level. Playing the game illustrates some of the ethical dilemmas and questions and encourages critical thinking.
African Farmer will be quicker and more flexible to play than the existing paper-based role-playing games about agriculture in developing countries. It is also designed to be cheaper and easier to distribute to a variety of audiences.
Building a community
The game is open source, which means that anyone can adapt it, so it will continue to be developed and expanded after it is launched. We will encourage a community to form around African Farmer, which will enable discussion and debate around the issues the game addresses: from the challenges of small-scale farming, to science and technology, environmental change and governance in Africa and beyond.