Players of FarmVille, the most popular game on Facebook, have so far contributed $487,500 towards the welfare of children in Haiti, reports FarmVille’s developer Zynga. The Sweet Seeds for Charity campaign, which has been running for the last three weeks, introduced a special kind of sweet potato into the game as an exclusive item that players could purchase for a small amount of real-world cash. Half the proceeds from the sale of the sweet potatoes goes to two Haiti-based charities.
With more than 60 million monthly users, FarmVille is the largest game on Facebook. Players tend to their farm plots by harvesting crops from strawberries to eggplants, purchasing items like tractors and combines, and engaging with their neighbors.Players can also purchase certain items through micro-transactions of real-world currency.
In the case of the Sweet Seeds initiative, half the proceeds from the special sweet potatoes were donated to two non-profit organizations in Haiti that support the health and education of children and their families: FATEM.org and FONKOZE.org. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the 7th poorest in the world.
“At FATEM, Zynga’s contribution will help make local residents of the town of Mirebalais become self-sufficient by providing one of the most important tools against poverty: education,” said Jacky Poteau, president, FATEM. “Zynga has made it possible for over 500 children to have full access to quality education, and uplift them and their families from poverty.”
“Zynga has taken networking to a whole new level, connecting tens of millions of people to some of the most isolated people in our hemisphere, the women and families of rural Haiti,” said Leigh Carter, executive director, Fonkoze USA. “Thanks to Zynga’s new social strategy, not only can we connect, we can act to eliminate extreme poverty in Haiti.”
This social goods program builds on an earlier Zynga initiative where players of its YoVille game, a virtual town with 140 million inhabitants, raised donations for the San Francisco SPCA by purchasing bulldogs and tabby cats from the in-game shelter as pets.
“The sheer scope and reach of social gaming to affect people’s lives in a positive way wasn’t even a reality a few years ago,” said Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga, in a statement. “Today, with social goods, we are enabling players to unlock their power to change the world and impact the lives of children.”
Pincus added that Sweet Seeds for Haiti was an early step for Zynga, with more charity-based initiatives to come.