The African Farmer Game simulates the complex decisions and uncertainties faced by small-scale farmers living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In African Farmer you are responsible for managing a growing household and small farm in an African village.
You start the game with some land, cash, and the labour resources of your household. With these limited resources care for your household and manage the farm. Each year you must:
- Choose the crops to grow in your fields and decide on strategies for weeding and fertilizers.
- Buy seeds, fertilizer and other goods and services from the market.
- Respond to bad weather, crop diseases and other chance events.
- Manage labour and decide on your children’s education.
- Care for your household's health by providing balanced diets.
As the seasons change, you can see the results of your decisions and adapt your strategy.
Task and Labour
Domestic chores - cooking, fetching fuel and water - are mandatory. If labour is not assigned to these chores it will be taken from farming tasks. Children can carry out 1 domestic task or attend school. If not sent to town, adults can carry out any 2 tasks (domestic or farming). On the farm, manually weeding a field requires 2 adult tasks.
The crops available for planting are beans, cotton, mixed horticulture, local maize, high-yield maize, drought-tolerant maize, cassava, and sorghum. Other inputs available at the market include manure, NPK fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide. Manure is applied to unplanted fields; fertilizer and sprays used only on planted fields.
Poor rains or drought significantly reduce crop yields, as can crop pests, though the losses can often be mitigated by spraying. If fields are not weeded, crop yields are halved.
Town Work and Education
At the start of each year, adult household members can be sent to town to seek work.A bus ticket is required to cover the journey. Town workers remain in town for the whole year, and while in town, the household need not cover their food costs or pay any medical expenses. A good education greatly increases the chances of finding well-paid work. Any money saved is sent home by M-Pesa at the start of the second, third and fourth seasons.
At the market players can buy and sell inputs, food and other assets (e.g. spray kits, storage granaries, contraception). Land can be bought, sold or rented. Labour and traction (animal and mechanised) is also available for hire. Market prices will vary with the communal harvest yields and chance events may also directly affect market prices and stocks.
You start the game with a randomly allocated amount of cash. You can apply for loans at the bank – these are granted on the basis of a credit check. If debts are not paid they will be recovered with penalties – if you have insufficient cash, assets will be seized. The game will end if you are declared bankrupt.
Nutrition and Health
Persons given poor diets are more likely to become ill and may die. An “A-level” diet fully protects against nutrition-related illness; persons given “X-level” diets will die from malnutrition. Persons who become ill cannot do any work and will remain in hospital until medical fees are paid. Persons who contract HIV incur medical expenses each year. When a person dies, funeral expenses must be paid, which increase with the age of the deceased.
There are a variety of settings available to tailor the game to your learning goals:
- Game features - chance events and climate change
- Farming options - planting seasons (one or two), traction, post-harvest losses and available crops
- Land Market - the amount of land available for purchase or rent.
- Nutrition models – basic, standard and advanced.
- Level of difficulty.
Click here for an interactive overview of the game. Advance to the Contents menu (slide 3) to navigate to different sections in the walkthrough.
Your feedback can help us improve the African Farmer Game. Please email your comments, suggestions and feedback on any problems you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.