June 23, 2017

Board Game Helps Coffee Farmers Manage Pests


Pest management on coffee farms is complex, especially if you’re looking for organic solutions. But the University of Michigan have created a board game that could make it easier for producers in Mexico.

SEE ALSO: Coffee Farming & Beekeeping: Solution to Endemic Pests?

Azteca ant on coffee tree

Azteca ant on a coffee plant in Mexico. Credit: University of Michigan SEAS via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Azteca Chess: Board Game Based on Coffee Plant 

The Azteca Chess board game is based on a shade-grown coffee plant. Tokens are used to represent ants, ladybirds, wasps, and flies, and the aim of the game is to collect your opponent’s tokens. The relationships between the pieces mimic the relationships between insects and fungi on the coffee farm.

Azteca ants protect scale insects, which are a major coffee pest, while ladybirds and parasitic wasps will eat the scale. At the same time, phorid flies will eat the Azteca ants. By paying attention to which insects are on the farm, a producer can set out to organically control pests.

In 2015, the University of Michigan used Azteca Chess in 14 workshops with 177 small-scale coffee producers in Chiapas, Mexico. In a report published this week, they announced that playing the game led to greater retention of this information than with lectures alone.

It’s an unconventional approach to teaching pest management strategies – but one that could have a strong impact.

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