BY CHRISTOPHER PANNA

If you’ve ever muttered under your breath about spoiled kids, you’ve probably later remembered that it’s not the kids’ fault. Their worldview only reflects their reality; to understand the plight of the developing world they’d need to experience it. And while a field trip to Nigeria isn’t feasible, your students can play a simulation like Third World Farmer.

I find the name a bit distasteful, but move past this label and you’ll find a game that captures the realities of rural life in Sub-Saharan Africa. You begin the game with a family of four, a small house, and an empty field. If you’re successful growing crops and raising livestock, the family can afford education and medical care, or try to increase their farm output by purchasing tools. Throughout the game, situations arise like new children, marriage proposals, and job opportunities in the city.

It sounds simple enough, but almost every turn brings challenges beyond the family’s control. Theft, drought, disease, and war frequently undermine your accomplishments and force you to rebuild from scratch. It’s not easy to succeed, and that’s why this is such an effective simulation. It’s shocking to see your family’s livestock stolen by refugees or its children grow up with only a few years of education.

Beyond giving a glimpse of life in the developing world, the site also shows how you can help. It includes links to more than a dozen organizations that work to ease poverty like UNICEF, Oxfam, and Doctors without Borders. Once students play the game, they’ll be better prepared to discuss rural poverty and learn about what these relief organizations do.

Third World Farmer

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