Kenya farmers have over the last ten years found an ally in reality TV that has sought to introduce them to new farming practices, connect them to experts and respond to any of their food production concerns.
Shamba Shape Up, one such programme uses farmers as stars in a model industry players hail as key in information dissemination. The programme has now grown in popularity attracting approximately eight million people in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“We travel around looking for farmers who have problems on their farms. We go to these farms find out what their problems are, and we bring in the experts and teach the farmers how to farm better,” . Producer Patricia Gichinga explained the format of the show to Arit Okpo, the presenter of CNN International’s African Voices Changemakers.
CNN followed the show revisiting the first farmer who appeared on the series. George Kararu spoke about his experience, “Shamba Shape Up has been beneficial to me. I was able to increase my core production quite a bit. I was having one cow, today I have quite a number and I’ve sold quite a number of them.”
Kararu has been using the skills Shamba Shape Up gave him to teach other farmers. He talks about his initiative, “After getting the knowledge from the show I founded Desara to bring other members, other farmers together. We formed a group that’s a farming group primarily on daily production and chicken production and we are doing very well now.”
As the show enters production for another series, Gichinga and the team have identified a key problem that farmers are facing – climate change. Gichinga describes how the show will address this issue, “We’ve decided for this year is to do some special episodes just on climate change adaptation, so here we are teaching farmers simple methods and technology that they can use to adapt.”
As well as this climate outreach, the show is also focused on social outreach. While the production team is hoping to encourage more women and young people to take up farming, Gichinga explained they are also hoping to reach a different audience, “We’re very interested in working with the prisons and we want to put Shamba Shape Up in all the prisons within Kenya so that inmates can be able to get some knowledge. So, once they’re out there, they have some sort of skills in order to make a living. And that also helps that they don’t go back to the bad vices.”
Shamba Shape Up aims to help farmers and support them with useful data that will yield results. Gichinga sums up the show’s ethos, “I think our pride is being able to reach farmers with information that is timely, that is event based, and is useful to them.”