CULTIVATORS’ RACE

This animation is adapted from the game “Elément terre mon cher Watson”, created by the association Frères des Hommes. Initially it is a game about access to land, but in order to help participants relate to the characters, a new version was developed. This game is focused on global competition between the agricultural workers that produce our usual food products.

Through this simulation, participants discover the daily life of the producers and how they are impacted by the globalised market and the competition it creates.

As part of the project « Global Education Agora », this game allow to tackle the issue of food and agriculture at global and local level. This game illustrate the international trade of agricultural product and focus on the environmental and social impact of the globalization. Participants are stimulated to think, reflect and share thoughts about responsible consumption and the need for Socially Responsible Economy.

OBJECTIVES

  • analysing the agroindustry system and the globalisation of agricultural trade
  • presenting the main problems food producers face around the world
  • allowing participants to relate by simulating the injustices producers encounter
  • illustrating the impact of global competition created by liberal trade
  • promoting socially responsible alternatives and supporting food sovereignty and peasant farming.

THEMES

  • peasant farming
  • globalisation of agricultural trade
  • liberal trade and stock market
  • socially responsible economy
  • fair trade
  • organic and local food production
  • GMO

STEPS OF THE GAME

  • In a relay race, every participant plays a different character, and has to run to fill their bucket of soil.
  • Between every round, the Game Master introduces new ruels and elements that disturb each character’s situation. These elements are based on real facts.
  • The winner is the player with the most soil in their bucket, symbolising the production and therefore profit.

AUDIENCE

  • 15+ years old
  • between 7 and 15 players
  • players can be grouped into teams, for example with the Guinean family

DURATION OF THE ACTIVITY

  • the game part can last between 30 to 60 minutes
  • the second part, for debriefing and discussing what happened in the game, can last from 15 up to 60 minutes depending on players’ availability (e.g. if the game is played by passersby on the street, or in a classroom)

REQUIRED MATERIAL

  • one bucket (or other container) per character/family of characters
  • harvesting material (see characters sheet), can be children’s toys for example
  • other prompts are listed on every character’s ID card
  • material can be adapted according to what is available to organizers
  • this game requires a space of about 20m², the important part is that players can run without bumping into other passersby
  • (see characters sheets for more detail)

1 /  Preparing the race and assigning roles to organisers

This game requires at least two animators. One is the « Game Master », leading the race. He or she explains the rules, assigns the characters, and sets the rythm of the game.

The Game Master should make the race as dramatic as possible and interact with spectators. They should explain and repeat as much as possible to sensitize the public. They should also exaggerate situations and create frustration in the players by advantaging some of them.

Finally, the Game Master should install an informal and playful atmosphere with the audience. They should sometimes be sarcastic and ironic to accentuate the injustices. Their role is to explain simply complex situations (global competition, land ownership…).

The second animator, acting as a referee, will assist in setting the rules of the game, distributing objects to players and introducing the new events. The referee should watch out for rule breaching and give out penalties at the end of each round. Any form of cheating should be remembered by animators in order to debrief them after the game.

The referee has a more neutral role than the first animator and therefore they should lead the discussion during the debriefing.

If there are more animators, they should act as observers during the race and report what they have seen during the debriefing. They can also encourage the audience to participate in the next game.

They can as well play a role during the events or in between rounds.

2 / Introducing the game

This step allows to introduce the globalisation of the food market and explain why this game is being organised. During this step, organisers can attract the last few participants.

Organisers can ask participants what they had for breakfast, and based on that, ask them about the origin of the products. This simple question can help participants relate to their characters, and make them more involved in the race.

3 / Assigning characters and explaining the rules

Distributing characters sheets: According to what organisers can see of the players’ personalities, they should follow their impression to match players with their character. The Game Master may have to separate couples or group of friends or keep them together according to the situation (if people might be too shy alone, or instead if competition between them might stimulate the game). For some characters they should choose more athletic players, or younger, and offer quieter characters to elderly people.

Rules: Participants should then act as their character only. The referee should now explain that every player is now a farmer with the objective of producing as much as possible. This production is symbolised by how much soil every player can bring back to their bucket during each round. Players read their character’s sheet and organisers check that everyone understands correctly. Then each player is invited to introduce themselves as their character to the group (using the information on their ID CARD, i.e nationality, product cultivated, production method and material used).

Distributing material and setting up: Each player receives their means of harvesting the soil (cup, bucket, etc) and then place their bucket on the start line.

4 / The race

The race is divided in 4 rounds of approximately one minute. During each round, players need to run as fast as possible to fill their bucket of soil.

After each round the Game Master will analyse the race and the situation. The referee will report any breaching of the rules and give penalties to some players. In between rounds, the Game Master will read the round of events corresponding (there are 3)(see events list).

Every player will get a bonus or a handicap for the next round. Once the events have been presented, the next round can begin.

5 / And the winner is…

When the last round is finished, players are invited to join the start line to check how much soil they have. The Game Master stars with the farmers that produced less and ends with the winner. Players should then « leave » their role and act as themselves again. But the animation is not finished and they are invited to sit in a circle to discuss what happened.

DEBRIEFING

The second part of the animation is the most important and interesting. The race is a tool to illustrate the unbalance of global food trade and an excuse to engage in a discussion.

Initiating this transition from the game to a serious discussion on the street is not easy. The Game Master should help this change to a moment of exchange, quieter. In order to achieve that, the debriefing space should be installed before the start of the race. Installing chairs in a circle for participants to rest, and offering them a drink should help create an atmosphere prone to discussion.

1 / Taking a step back

First, organisers should ask the participants about their impressions on the game. Each player should have the time to explain their personal point of view on the race. Emotions (anger, frustration, boredom, sadness), are a good starting point to deepen the conversation.

Use simple questions:

  • How are you feeling ?
  • How did you feel during the game ?
  • What do you think about your character ?
  • How did you experience the game ?
  • What struck you during the game ?
  • How did you feel when the results were announced ?

Organisers can report everything they noticed during the game, like group strategy, players’ behaviour, cheating. They can quote key sentences as well.
This helps give everyone some time to leave the role play and take a step back to start thinking about what happened.

2 / Analysing the game

The second step should guide the participants into thinking about the food and agriculture related problems. Organisers should ask them what they understood about the game:

  • Do you think these events are real ?
  • What is the soil representing in the game ?
  • What do the handicaps given to the players represent ?
  • Do you think this game is close to reality ?
  • What do the tools represent in the game ?

The person leading the debate should use the participants’ remarks to clarify some issues presented in the game, like the GMO in Haiti, access to land in Brazil, free trade impact in Guinea, working conditions in Sri Lanka, industrial, intensive and polluting agriculture in Spain, price of the products in France… Organisers should keep in mind that every group is different and therefore every debriefing will be as well.

3 / Debating

The second step will naturally lead to a more informal exchange on the topics. Smaller groups can be formed according to participants’ interests in some topics more than others. This can be done more easily if there are several animators.

Organisers should invite participants to express their point of view, and even relate personal experiences linked to the matter. Consumption is usually an easy starting point to link participants’ life to that of the characters of the game.

During this third step some players might excuse themselves if they have to go. This phase should not be too long and at the first sign of someone leaving, invite the group to find a conclusion before ending the animation.

4 / Exploring alternatives

In order not to end the game on a pessimistic note and not let the participants feel helpless, the conclusion phase should explore alternatives that do not reinforce the problems discussed.

Organisers can ask the participants what they would do instead, what alternatives they can find at their level. They can be individual or collective, local or global, daily or punctual… The objective is to be positive and value the power of each participant to change things.

  • How can you act as a citizen to promote peasant farming ?
  • Do you know people, associations, movements fighting against globalisation of agricultural trade ?

After letting participants share their knowledge, doubts, hopes, animators will present the right to food sovereignty as a conclusion. They should use examples of the characters’ actions in the last round. Every character is based on a real situation of resistance, solidarity…

Movements to present: Papaya Movement in Haiti, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Farmers without land movement) in Brazil, Workers Solidarity Unions in Sri Lanka, Guinean producers federation, Confédération Paysanne in France…

The aim is to show that everywhere in the world, people are gathering to support peasant farming and food sovereignty. Their fights are interdependent, as shows the international movement Via Campesina. Convergence of social struggles, cooperation and solidarity are concrete solutions to the competition created by globalisation. Animators can illustrate those alternatives with the project “Thé Solidaire ?”.

Characters card/sheet

Pedro (Spain, Almeria)

You are a strawberry producer using the off-ground method. Thanks to your chemicals cocktail, you produce all year round with limited costs for European supermarkets.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 bucket
  • 1 small shovel
  • 1 cap

Jean Petitcoeur (Haiti, Anse Rouge)

You are a small cacao producer on an isolated mountain. You are still using manual and traditional methods. This subsistence farming barely covers the living costs for you and your family

MATERIAL:

  • 1 tea cup
  • 1 mug

Mariana (Recife, Brazil)

You work in North-Eastern Brazil with your family, producing the famous “Do Brasil” coffee. Your grandfather’s land is not big but it allows you to cultivate and produce vegetables for your family. With little, you produce a lot and it makes you proud.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 small bucket/jar

Alain (Roussillon, France)

You produce peaches in the South of France. Your production methods are modern but costly. You sell mostly to mass retail.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 bucket
  • 1 small shovel
  • 1 eyeband

DIOP family (Konakry Guinea)

You are a Guinean family working as a cooperative. Your potatoes production is manual and traditional, a very physical job. You sell everything on the local market.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 spoon per person
  • 1 goblet
  • string

Shiva (Sri Lanka)

You are a big land owner. You own a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, producing for the biggest multinational companies.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 wheelbarrow
  • 1 shovel
  • 1 chair

Viji (Sri Lanka)

You are one of the hundreds of workers in the tea plantations. You work 12h a day in precarious conditions.

MATERIAL:

  • 1 wheelbarrow
  • 1 shovel
  • 1 chair

FIRST ROUND OF EVENTS

Brazil : Can I see your ownership title ? The Game Master authoritatively asks Mariana to justify her ownership of the land by a document, without which she is evicted from her own land. She is therefore disqualified from the round.

Haiti : Jean, you are in luck, last week you met a very nice guy from Monsanto who offered you corn seeds to change production and life. A new world of enormous production XX ! You enter modernity, therefore you get a bigger cup (mug).

Sri Lanka : So how is life in the plantation ? Are you tired ? Not you Viji, I’m talking to Shiva. The pressure of stock market exchange, always selling more, faster, and cheaper. You need to take care of yourself, here, take this chair to rest.

France : Good job Alain, you are producing well, but you don’t seem to feel good. I know, you are working a lot and not getting a lot in return. You want to drop everything ? Change life ? You work blindly, never knowing in advance at what price you will sell your production. Here, he is a blindfold to cover your eyes !

Spain : Qué tal, my Pedro ? Everything ok ? In Europe everyone is very happy with you, don’t change anything, keep going. You are a bit hot, qué calor, here, Europe takes care of you, cover your head with this cap.

Guinea : Well, don’t rush yourselves, you’re not gonna feed the population at this pace. Given the situation and based on IFM advice, the government decided to open the local market to European potatoes, very good and cheaper ! Faced to this subsidised production, your local potatoes are not selling well and you lose your goblet.

SECOND ROUND OF EVENTS

Brazil : Todo bien, Mariana ? Well, no land, no work ! Times are hard, so either you go to the favelas, either you work the land again. You’re in luck, the man who bought the land you were occupying illegally, in good will has agreed to hire you as a farmer. You will now put the soil you bring back in the latifundist’s bucket who will then determine your share.

Haiti : So Jeannot, this new corn production is great, they didn’t lie to  you ! Now that you sold your production you can pay for the new seeds for the next year. No, you misunderstood, you cannot reuse the old seeds, they’re sterile ! You need to buy the GMO seeds and all the products they need, it’s all in the contract. Your hands are tied ! (Tie his hands in his back)

Sri Lanka : Shiva, are you good with this chair ? But the multinationals buying your products want you to lower your prices again. You don’t have a choice, you need to lower your production costs. Your worker is too expensive, either she works more, or you hire another one. To motivate her, here is a new management method to put a bit of pressure on her and remind her who’s the boss (give him a water gun).

France : Alain, it seems you have thought this through, you can’t go on like this. All those products you’re using to protect your production are too expensive and bad for the environment. You decided to go organic, it’s healthier and you will sell to a better price (Alain gets a sieve to clean his soil).

Spain : For you, no need to go organic, you are in good shape. Europe wants to bank on you and help you modernise. These new chemicals will help you produce even faster strawberries that can resist the long journeys to all corners of Europe (The Game Master gets a sprayer, and will spray José in the next round).

Guinea : It’s unfair, you’re right. Thanks to your advocacy with other producers, your government is reacting. Now during your harvest, customs fees will be high on European potatoes, so you will have no problem selling your production. You get your goblet back.

THIRD ROUND OF EVENTS

Haiti : Jean, you see that your friends in the Papaya farmers’ movement were right telling you not to enter the agrobusiness industry. Your contract is ending and you decide to get your freedom back and start again with your cocoa production. Only this time you will sell everything through the fair trade market. Every job is worthy. (Jean’s hands are untied and he gets his tea cup back).

Brazil : Mariana, you are not getting any reward either. This land is your own and you are done only getting the crumbs your boss is leaving for you. With the help of the movement Sans Terre (Without Land) you decide to occupy the land and take back what is yours (Mariana gets her bucket back).

Sri Lanka : Enough is enough. Viji, you are tired of working like a slave for almost nothing. With your syndicate, the Workers Solidarity Union, you decide to go on strike. If he wants to produce, he will have to do it himself. (Viji will not take part in the last round. Shiva can decide or not to take her place).

France : Organic is better, look at the good soil Alain is producing. It’s better but it’s still not the perfect situation, with the mass retail asking for lower prices again. Clever Alain finds a way to sell without going through them. With direct selling and with his cooperative he sells directly to the consumer (bring Alain’s bucket forward).

Spain : Perdo, you’re all wet ! You shouldn’t be selling your health for your job. Farmer’s health matters to Europe. So, we’re keeping the chemicals, but it shouldn’t burn your eyes. (Pedro gets a diving mask and the Game Master will continue spraying him).

Guinea : It was too good to be true. European countries complained to the World Trade Organisation. Your government cannot have Europe against them and was forced to cut the customs fees. But you are not giving up and with other producers you launch a campaign to promote local potatoes consumption. You find your dignity in fighting, as Sekou Touré sait « We choose porverty in freedom over richness in slavery ». (They lose their goblets again but the Game Master symbolically unties their legs).