(Download PDF)

famine1Mr Ibrahim oversees the drying of his pepper harvest in Niger. With proper irrigation Mr Ibrahim is able to grow and sell enough peppers to buy grain, clothing and livestock. Due to the success of his pepper crop he now owns cows, goats and horses.

Surprisingly, the cause of famine is often not a food shortage. For example the 2005 famine in Niger is not due solely to a harvest devastated by locusts. Indeed the harvest was 22% better than that of 2000-2001 according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: www.fao.org). There are other important factors in famine prevention as this gaming simulation may reveal.


This simulation is for N players where N should be at least 12. The N players are assigned to one of these groups:

famine3 NigeriansNiger neighbours the wealthier and more populous Nigeria. Two thirds (rounded down) of the players should represent Nigerians. At the start of the game each Nigerian gets $42 (years 2000-2004) or $72 (years 2005+) . Nigeria is on the Atlantic Ocean, so Nigerians can pay $10 to import a grain (they do this just before scoring.)
famine4 Niger’s grain producersHalf (rounded down) of the remaining people should be Niger’s grain producers. Split 3xN grain roughly equally among Niger’s grain producers.
famine5 Niger’s goat producersAll the remaining people should be Niger’s goat producers. Each gets 6 goats.


Games should be played in 5-10 minutes with players mingling and making deals with each other. The game should be repeated again and again until the players understand about how much grain and goats are worth. Start at year 2000…

At the end of each year any Nigerians who wish may import grain at a cost of $10 each. Then everyone scores:

  • 5 points for each goat, (but only if you have at least 3 grain).
  • 1 point for each dollar (but only if you have at least 4 grain).

After each year a few people who did well should describe their strategy. How many people got zero points each year (famine victims)? Does the increasing wealth of the Nigerians influence the number of famine victims? Which group is at greatest risk of famine? Show that there is enough food (without the Nigerians importing) for everyone. What goes wrong?


  • Do not use too much grain. Use exactly 3 times as many grain as there are players.
  • For efficient play, restrict the Nigerians to the denominations that they are given. For example: If they only have a $10 left, they cannot split it into two $5.
*This “game” is about a sad subject. To contribute to famine relief please contact the Red Cross or UNICEF.

(Print page 3 of the pdf to serve as money, grain and goats)

(Download PDF)