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Sowing and Harvesting

Volume 1 Number 22 - July 2001






The activity presented here is the first part of a simulation game that allows children, aged 7-11 years of age, to experience some of the challenges faced by farmers in many parts of the world.  Produced by Oxfam GB, the game can be used to complement classroom work, which looks at where our food comes from and the ways in which it links us to the rest of the world.  In particular the game aims to help children:
  • Appreciate the distinction between cash crops and food crops
  • Understand why farmers can't always grow enough food to feed their own communities
  • Understand how market forces work, by putting them in the role of farmers who have to cope with these forces
  • Develop a range of skills, including mathematical skills, co-operative group work, discussion and empathy, and manual dexterity.

The game could be used by educators in botanic gardens as a tool for teacher training or as a teaching resource for children when they visit the garden.  The second part of the game will appear in the next issue of Roots.

The Game

Allow about 45 minutes for the first part of this activity.  The game has been designed for about 30 participants working in groups of four to six.

This activity is easier to run with two adults, especially when working with young children.  If you combine classes to do this, increase the materials proportionately.  If a class is working on particular crops, you may prefer to make your own templates based on these.  You may want to explain what the different materials (scissors, pencils etc) represent before you start the main activity, or you may choose to leave this until the end, by which time the children may have worked it out for themselves.

You Will Need

  • 250 units of money
  • 15 pencils
  • 15 pairs of scissors
  • 100 squares of red paper (A4 sheet cut into four so that each piece is bigger than the template)
  • 100 squares of green paper (as above)
  • 6 templates of each shape giving a total of 36 templates
  • 1 photocopied cut out set of ‘chance’ cards (see box)
  • A price list for year one and year two (photocopy and enlarge these , or write on the board)

What the Materials Represent

  • Pencils - ploughs or implements for digging soil and planting seeds
  • Scissors - harvesting equipment (anything from scythe to combine harvester)
  • Templates - land; each template represents a field – red for growing cash crops and green for growing food crops
  • Paper squares - seeds

Section A: Getting Going

Time needed: 15 minutes

What to do

Ensure that everyone has put all their own pens, pencils, etc away.  Select three people to run the market.  On their table they should have all the pencils, scissors, red and green paper squares, and red and green templates that will be used in the activity.  Display the enlarged ‘Price list: year one’.

Divide the rest of the class into groups of between four and six.  Give each group between thirty and thirty-five units of money.  You can vary the number so that some groups start with a bit of an advantage.  Explain to the class that they are groups of farmers producing cash crops and food crops.  They will do this by buying materials from the market at the prices displayed on ‘Price list: year one’.

In order to ‘grow’ a food crop they will need a green food template and a green square of paper. They ‘plant the seed’ by drawing around the template on to the paper with a pencil.  It is then ‘harvested’ by cutting around the drawing with scissors.  Cash crops are ‘grown’ in the same way, but using red templates on red squares of paper.  Templates may be used over and over again.  Crops must be harvested one at a time (no cheating by cutting through several sheets at once!).

Red cut-out cash crops can be sold back to the market.  The price players will get for these may change.  Green cut-out food crops cannot be sold, but each group should produce at least enough for one cut-out per person in the group (for example, a group of six needs to produce at least six food cut outs).

Give groups a few minutes to work out their ‘shopping list’.  Remind them that they may not want to spend all their money immediately.  Groups select a representative to go to market to buy the things that they have agreed on.

Section B: Year One

Time needed: 15 minutes

What to do

Groups begin to produce their crops.  The market will be kept busy selling more items and buying in cash crops.  After 15 minutes, announce that the first year of farming and trading is over.

Note For Teachers

Control the activity by ‘policing’ for cheating and making sure that the three people running the market know how much to pay out for cash crops.  Well produced (neatly cut out) crops could fetch six units of money each at first, but this should be reduced to about two units as more are produced.

Once groups have commenced you can visit them: fan out the ‘chance’ cards from year one upside down, ask them to select one, enforce it, and then move onto the next group.  Each group should get at least two opportunities to select a card.  These cards are suggestions – add to them or remove some as you see fit (if you have two adults, one can do the ‘policing’ and ‘chance’ cards while the other supervises the market stall).

Section C: Assessing The First Year’s Farming

Time needed: 10 minutes

What to do

Groups will be left with food crops, some money, and possibly some cash crops.  Any scraps of paper should be thrown away.

Food Crops

Each person will need to ‘eat’ one food crop (green cut-out shape) to survive into year two.  On this basis, the teacher collects one food shape per person from each group (five from a group of five and so on).  Extra food shapes can be stored for one year only.  Groups without enough food to eat will have to buy shapes from another group with extras.  The group selling the food negotiates the price.

Note For Teachers

If any group is still left hungry, offer them ‘food aid’ by giving them some of the food you have collected.  In return they must give up their food fields and grow cash crops for you (or the government) in future – exchange their green templates for red ones.  You may then decide to extend this idea of enforced cash crop production by not paying them for the crops they produce in the future.  Instead, give them a small amount of money (say one unit each) with which to buy food at the end of the year two.


All groups have to pay taxes for water, schooling, hospitals and other services.  Deduct about six units of money per group for this.  Oil could be an additional expense.  It is most effective if the teachers take money for each expense (some groups may be charged more than others).

Cash Crops

Half-finished cash crops (red squares) are frost-damaged crops and unsaleable – they will have to be thrown away.  Crops not yet taken to market are useless now and must be discarded.  Any unused red squares can be kept for farming in year two.


Groups can keep their farming tools (scissors and pencils) for the next year’s farming.  They may also keep their land (templates).

As a class, take stock of the situation and compare notes.

Who has money?  How much?  What will they spend their money on?  How much food do groups have?  What helped them to do so well?  What were the problems?

 BGCI is very grateful to Oxfam GB for their permission to reproduce this simmulation game. Oxfam GB is a development, relief, and campaigning organisation dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world.  

Oxfam produces an annual education catalogue which contains over 400 items (photo packs, video packs, books, posters, maps, CDROMs, etc) selected on quality criteria to support teaching about development issues, global citizenship and sustainable development and livelihoods.  It sets out to be a 'one stop shop' for teachers, curriculum advisers and others working in education and with young people, bringing together the best materials from NGOs, Development Education Centres, intergovernmental and international organisations, and from commercial publishers.

Oxfam holds stock of all the items and can supply, on a single order, teaching materials from diverse sources.  For a copy of the current Oxfam Education Resources for Schools Catalogue write to Oxfam Publishing, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1865 311311. Email:  Web site:


L’activité présentée ici est la première partie d’un jeu de simulations destiné aux enfants âgés de 7 à 11 ans, pour expérimenter quelques uns des problèmes auxquels ont à faire face des agriculteurs dans bien des parties du monde. Produit par Oxfam en Grande Bretagne, le jeu peut être utilisé en complément d’un travail scolaire, destiné à faire percevoir d’où vient notre nourriture et les chemins par lesquels cela nous lie au reste du monde. Le jeu a pour but en particulier d’aider les enfants:

  • A apprécier la distinction entre la collecte de fonds et la collecte de nourriture.
  • A comprendre pourquoi les agriculteurs ne peuvent pas toujours produire assez de nourriture pour nourrir leur propre communauté.
  • A comprendre le rôle du marché en se mettant dans le rôle de fermiers qui ont à faire face à ces contraintes.
  • A développer une série de compétences, incluant les mathématiques, le travail de discussions de groupes, la dextérité et l’habilité manuelle.

Le jeu peut être utilisé par des éducateurs de jardins botaniques comme un outil pour l’apprentissage ou une ressource d’enseignement pour les enfants qui visitent le jardin.  La seconde partie du jeu sera expliquée dans la prochaine édition de Roots.


La actividad presentada aquí es la primera parte de un juego de simulación que permite a los niños , entre 7-11 años de edad, experimentar algunos de los retos enfrentados por los granjeros en muchas partes del mundo.  Producido por Oxfam, U.K. el juego puede ser usado para complementar trabajo en clase, el cuál busca hacia de donde nuestra comida viene y de las formas en las cuales ella se liga con el resto del mundo. En particular el objetivo del juego es ayudar a los niños a

  • Apreciar la diferencia entre los cultivos que se promueven por dinero y los cultivos alimenticios.
  • Entender porque los granjeros no pueden siempre cultivar suficiente comida para alimentar sus propias comunidades.
  • Entender como las fuerzas del mercado trabajan, y los  colocan en el papel de granjeros quienes tienen que competir con las mismas.
  • Desarrollar un rango de herramientas, incluyendo las herramientas matemáticas, grupos de trabajo cooperativas, discusión y empatía, y destreza manual.

El juego podría ser usado por los educadores en jardines botánicos como una herramienta para el entrenamiento de maestros o como un recurso de enseñanza para niños cuando ellos visitan el jardín.  La segunda parte del juego aparecerá en el próximo número de Roots.