Photo: Gizmodo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fetching water versus fetching a cuppa

I got sent the other day a very revealing email concerning Water Aid's "End Water Poverty" campaign (h/t Laura Cowley). It has some interesting facts about how the average Brit spends his or her time. Did you know for example that we spend about six hours a week drinking tea and coffee? That’s the same amount of time it itakes on average to make two trips to collect water in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Something to bear in mind the next time you trapse to the kitchen to put the kettle on... There's more on their campaign, as well as a petition to end water poverty, on their website.

Friday, March 25, 2011

All you can farm for $200 a week

I came across this video below from the Guardian website on Duncan Green's blog. An Indian company has bought an area of land the size of Wales in south-west Ethiopia for which it pays the Ethiopian government just over US$200 a month. Most of the workers receive less than US$1 and the food produced will be exported to India. And this in a country where a large proportion of the population are still dependent on foreign food aid.

Is this just an inevitable consequence of globalisation, where the interests of large corporations supercede those of the indigenous population? Can private sector companies be held to account to ensure they give due regard to international human rights norms? Relevant to this issue, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will be considered by the UN's Human Rights Council this June. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has also issued a call to consider a set of eleven human rights principles regarding "land grabbing".

The land grab phenomenon thows up a lot of questions regarding the fight against poverty and for sustainable development. Anyone got any answers?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Link to game

For some reason the link to the game I refered to in my post yesterday was down. Today it's working - you can check it out here.

Look forward to your comments after you've given it a look.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can you turn Haiti into a game?

With spring in the air, time for this blog to emerge from hibernation...

And what better way than a moral question. I came across on the Global Poverty Project website a game which has been developed by a group of children from Brooklyn, NY who are involved in a project to develop online games run by Global Kids Online Leadership program. The game I came across is called, "Ayiti: The Cost of Life" and it involves "Helping the Guinard family to make ends meet and get ahead in their poverty-stricken homeland, Haiti. In this sometimes tragic and always challenging simulation game, you help the parents, Jean and Marie, and their children, Patrick, Jacqueline, and Yves, make decisions about work, education, community building, personal purchases, and health care that might brighten their future."

According to Global Kids' website, "During the 2005-2006 school year, Global Kids Youth Leaders in the Playing for Keeps program at South Shore High School gained leadership, research, and game design skills while producing a socially conscious online game, Ayiti: The Cost of Life ( The youth chose to design a game that focuses on the issue of poverty as an obstacle to education and uses the country of Haiti as a case study. The game and its associated curriculum were released through UNICEF’s Child Alert: Haiti website(...) Since it was released in October 2006, hundreds of thousands of people have played Ayiti. The game and the after school component are being evaluated by the Center for Children and Technology."

I played the game to see what it was about (this morning the link is down for some reason). The game is user friendly and has been well designed by the kids. But no matter how hard I tried, the Guinard family kept dying on me, one by one, as I ran out of money and they got too sick to work or go to school. 

The game certainly made me think about the challenges extreme poverty brings to a family in Haiti: health, education, lack of money and decent work, hurricanes. There are even pop ups occasionally telling you it's Carnival and how happy the community are to celebrate, so you get small glimpses of the culture.

The game also made me think about what Haitian kids would think of this game about trying to keep alive and flourish their fellow citizens. I couldn't find anywhere on the website reaction from Haitians.

It also made me think about the extent to which it is fair for people to learn about a country based principally on its hardship. What you come away with from the game is how harsh and fragile life is in the country. More often than not, the game will end in the death of the family after about 15 minutes play, in which time 2 or 3 years have gone by in the life of the family. 

What's missing is a real insight into how people really live to really do justice to the struggle of the Haitians (or any people come to that). How do Haitian children spend their day, how do they help their family, what games do they play, what are their hopes and dreams? 

I think it's a great idea to learn about a country through a game. But my question is whether it is morally acceptable to learn about a country through a game in which people die?