Food for thought in the Freerice campaign

Monday, February 6th saw the World Food Programme launching the week-long “6 Degrees of Freerice” social media campaign to reduce world hunger.

By Prue Goredema

With over one million registered users worldwide, Freerice is a not-for-profit website where players’ general knowledge is put to a philanthropic use. Each time a player answers a question correctly, Freerice donates ten grains of rice to the hungry.  Now players old and new are being asked to recruit six people each until the snowball culminates with a prize for the founder of the largest group on February 11th — and much relief for the starving. While 3000 Freericers had pledged their support before the “6 Degrees of Freerice” week began, the first day saw 135 online groups sprouting up as the word spread on social networks.

In an interview with eLearning Africa, Abby Ravera of the World Food Programme said, “While the average Freericer tends to be American, given the widespread internet usage there, we have some good support in Africa. Our top five African countries for participation in order of traffic are: South Africa, Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, Kenya (with Algeria close behind it). It’s surprising not to see Nigeria in this top five list. But we have players from all over Africa, including one player in Guinea-Bissau!”

African participation in the Freerice endeavour nearly mirrors tweeting activity patterns recently released by Tweetminster and Portland for the last quarter of 2011. South Africa led with 5,030,226 tweets; Kenya 2,476,800; Nigeria 1,646,212; Egypt 1,214,062; and Morocco had 745, 620. Social media have become an active dimension of the public sphere in these countries.

“We have found that Facebook and Twitter are very good areas for speaking with potential Freericers,” says Ravera. “Social networks really have opened up the door for different ways of affecting social change, in very creative ways. However, there is a risk of ‘slactivism’ – where you ask people to “click for a cause” and their involvement ends there. With “6 Degrees of Freerice”, we’re asking for active involvement in raising rice to provide meals for those who need it most. So we feel very excited about the concept.”

Since the game’s launch in 2007, players correctly answering trivia questions on Freerice have donated over 100 billion grains of rice to feed around five million people.  A charitable cause and edutainment tool in one, it has a repository of 45, 000 questions available in six languages, including English, French and Chinese. The question categories are Humanities, Geography, Chemistry and Maths as well as English, French, German, Italian and Spanish vocabulary.  The player is presented with a series of multiple choice questions of varying degrees of difficulty although one can switch between subjects and levels at any time.  It’s an informal learning tool in which the player feeds the mind whilst feeding the hungry.

And this week’s “6 Degrees of Freerice” campaign to get more people learning and donating is one which is being embraced by Africans wherever there is an active social media presence. Test your trivia while feeding the needy by visiting the Freerice website.

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