Extreme Third World Farmer Challenge: the winners

I have to apologize for taking so long to put together the winners list for the Aid Thoughts Extreme Third World Farmer Challenge. Finally, here we go:

The entry with the best overall score is *drumroll*…

Minae Seog from Dartmouth College! With a score of 4,485, Minae beat out the competition by a whopping 2,645 points. As soon as we can arrange it, Minae will win a free copy of our special Aid Thoughts¬† edition of Dead Aid, scrawled with critical notes and expletives by Ranil and myself (she’ll need to e-mail me her address first). Congrats Minae!

The entry with the highest Human Development Index is….

Bet Caeyers from Oxford University with an HDI of 0.75. As no one reported very reliable life expectancy figures, the HDI measure is limited to just the income and education dimensions. Since the winner of this category isn’t a blogger, Bet will get to nominate which blog will be free of Aid Thoughts snark.

When I have a little more free time on my hands, I ‘ll put up a link with all the entries, and a little more detail on how the scores were put together. Until then, congratulations to the winners, and thanks for playing.

The contest

The Aid Thoughts Extreme Third World Farmer Challenge submission date has now passed – I will be crunching the numbers over the week and announce the winner next Thursday!

Extreme Third World Farmer Development Economist Challenge

As academics, aid workers, bloggers and concerned citizens, we all care about the plight of the poor rural farmer. From those who want to douse her with fertilizer to those who’d like to just get her a job at McDonald’s, we also all seem to know what is best way forward.

It’s time to put that knowledge to test. I propose a contest where you step into the shoes of the rural farmer and see how well your assumptions play out against a backdrop of immense scarcity and uncertainty. No, this isn’t some kind of poverty immersion exercise – that would be far too easy. This is simulation.

Unfortunately the Aid Thoughts virtual reality room is currently out of order, so in lieu of something remotely realistic we must turn to our second best option: Third World Farmer.

The unfortunately-titled TWF is an “African farmer simulator” designed to teach people about the difficulties of rural life in developing countries. You are tasked with growing crops, earning money, dealing with the myriad of shocks that come your way, and slowly building up your family’s health and human capital, as well as breaking out of poverty.

TWF isn’t a perfect game (see my original review here) – it is rife with African stereotypes (of the four horsemen variety) and I have a feeling that it hits you over the head a little too often with negative shocks to get its point across, rather than reflect reality. You might find some of the options the game considers a failure to be anything but, such as the option to move to the city for a much higher income.

Despite this – it’s the best we have, and I can think of no better chance, short of an actual cage match, for the experts of the world, bloggers, and development-savvy folk everywhere to go head-to-head.


  1. Go to the Third World Farmer website here.
  2. If you haven’t played it before, give the game a try. You get one play through to get a feel for it, no more.
  3. When you’re ready, begin your game. Once you’ve started, there’s no turning back.
  4. Your game is over when either your farm ceases to exist (usually for negative reasons) or you win the game by buying every available item for purchase (these things range from poultry to crop insurance).
  5. Once the game is over, record your score (take a screenshot using your printscreen key) and your total number of turns and send it to me at matt@aidthoughts.org.
  6. On top of the score, I will be recording results for your own personal human development index result, so I will also be needing:
    1. The average educational attainment of the people living on your farm (education)
    2. The number of living household members, including the age-at-death of any who passed away (life expectancy)
    3. The per capita income of the household in the final turn (income)
  7. As I get your scores, I will create a scoreboard on this website with a ranking, both for high scores and for HDI results.
  8. A month from now, on May 11th, I will close the competition. The winner with the highest score will receive a special Aid Thoughts edition of Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid, scrawled with critical notes and expletives by Ranil and myself. Now you too can experience the same mind-numbing frustration we felt upon reading it.
  9. The winner with the highest human development index will receive  one full month free of snark or sarcastic criticism from Aid Thoughts.

The prize: Dead Aid, Aid Thoughts annotated edition

Is this contest tasteless, patronizing and a little demeaning? Probably – but here at Aid Thoughts we deal with all all three. So, boot up you laptops, load up Toto’s ‘Africa‘ on iTunes, and start planting those crops.