Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Resource Economics and Policy


Jonathan G. Malacarne

Second Committee Member

Caroline Lundquist Noblet

Third Committee Member

Kathleen P. Bell


Climate change is a major threat to food security, particularly in low and middle-income countries that are highly dependent on staple crops for subsistence. The vulnerability of staple crops, like maize, in the face of climate change, is increasing due to the increasing frequency of droughts. This thesis aims to evaluate two mechanisms through which farmers may be more willing to adopt new technologies that increase their resilience to climate change: First, I evaluate the effectiveness of a new virtual maize farming game as a learning tool to teach farmers about the outcomes they could obtain under different weather events when adopting new technologies, specifically drought tolerant maize seeds and satellite-based index insurance. Second, I test the effectiveness of framing messages that induce farmers to evaluate prospects not just by the individual utility they provide but also in terms of the utility they may perceive through their family and community well-being. Thus, both, the game and framing messages created for this thesis are meant to nudge farmers’ behaviors, inducing farmers to choose the new resilience-enhancing technologies.

As part of a bigger research project, the game was developed and tested with a sample of maize farmers in Mozambique in the form of a framed field experiment. Local data were collected to calibrate key parameters of the simulated game. Enumerators collected sociodemographic data of farmers participating in the experiment through a survey. A subset of the sample for the survey data was randomly selected to participate in one of the three versions of the virtual game, where each version differs by the framing message to which the farmer was exposed. A paired t-test and multinomial logit models were used to test the role of experience in the game and the framing messages in changing farmers’ behavior in the short term, within the game itself.

I find that experience within the virtual maize farming game produces changes in farmers’ in-game behavior. Notably, experience with simulated drought events are determinant in the learning process. Additionally, those exposed to the framing messages related to family and community domains are more likely to adopt the new technologies compared to those exposed just to the framing related to the individual domain. Moreover, the impact of the framing varies depending on farmers’ experiences with droughts in the real world as well as during the game.

These results indicate that simulated experiences through games could be useful tools to introduce new technologies to small farmers. Furthermore, introducing framing messages in these games can intensify the rate of acceptance and adoption of technologies that may help farmers to be more resilient in the face of climate change. These results only show changes in farmers’ behaviors in the short term. Further research is needed to evaluate the long-term impacts of this experiment.

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