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Reality TV shapes up young farming in Eastern Africa

Dossier: Stemming youth migration

Youths in Eastern Africa are making more informed agronomic decisions to increase their production by watching agricultural TV shows

© The Mediae Company

by

Kenya

Agricultural TV shows that provide information on how to start an agribusiness are encouraging youths in Kenya and Tanzania to consider farming as a lucrative career choice.

In Kenya, as in other African countries, young people often do not possess the collateral or adequate financial knowledge needed to venture into agricultural enterprises, deterring them from seeking and acquiring financial support for the development of agribusinesses. Further issues regarding the storage, transportation and market access of farm produce, and the resulting food loss and wastage in the country, can also deter youth from engaging in the sector.

To change the perception of agriculture in the country, TV programme Shamba Shape Up (SSU) has been running for the past 5 years to share young farmers’ success stories and promote agriculture as a business opportunity. The show aims to give farmers and audiences the tools they need to improve their farms (shambas). The series tackles issues such as soil infertility, poor crop and livestock health, as well as dietary diversity and how to maximise the nutritional value of vegetables consumed.

So far, SSU has produced nine series, reaching an estimated 5 million people in Kenya, with broadcasts recently being extended to Tanzania. Each episode focuses on one farmer and their farm with the SSU team, including a film crew and experts such as veterinarians and crop specialists, visiting a different farm each week. Typically, the film crew spends 4 days with each farmer, allowing time to get experts’ opinions and build any necessary improvement structures.

Youths in Eastern Africa are making more informed agronomic decisions to increase their production by watching agricultural TV shows

Youths in Eastern Africa are making more informed agronomic decisions to increase their production by watching agricultural TV shows

© The Mediae Company

Young farmers for food security

Gabriel Ingubu, a 28-year-old farmer in Kenya’s Bungoma County, is now practising horticulture after watching the programme on TV. “I did not have any knowledge on tomato farming, but after watching how they handled the farming – from selecting the seeds, soil preparation and disease control to harvesting – I am now an expert farmer,” he enthuses. On 0.2 ha of land, Ingubu plants tomatoes, kale and other leafy green vegetables, earning him around KSh 10,000 (€88) a week, which is enough to meet his family needs. He is also saving money to start a greenhouse project in order to increase production to supply hotels and restaurants around Bungoma town.

Focusing on young farmers is important for Kenya’s food security says Patricia Gichinga, head of productions at The Mediae Company, which produces the programme. “In Kenya, the average age of a farmer is pushing 60. There are many farms where less than half the land is being cultivated due to the age of the farmer and energy to invest in farming. These farmers also tend to be slow to innovate or change attitudes and behaviour, or use new ICTs for communication,” she says. “At the same time, there is a very large young population, which has trouble accessing land to farm as parents are unwilling to hand over land to individual children as a result of inheritance traditions or conflicts with other children. Very seldom do young people actually lease or rent land from their parents, or other landowners, and put the land to use,” explains Gichinga. “With SSU, we reach 2 million households in Kenya and we estimate around two people in the household are watching. Plus, 34% of that audience are youths of 18-30 years [according to Geopoll data]. In Tanzania we have an audience of 3 million.”

Many farmers have been able to get feedback to any questions that arise whilst watching the show through a mobile phone-based agricultural information service called ishamba, also developed by The Mediae Company. In conjunction with SSU, the advice provided by the ishamba service helps farmers improve production and thus increase their incomes and livelihoods. ishamba has been running since 2015 and employs 12 young agricultural experts from Jomo Kenyatta University, who have been trained to write up agricultural information for mobile support. The premium service, which costs KSh 800 (€7) per year, currently has 270,000 subscribers – 44% of whom are women.

Don’t Lose the Plot

To further engage youths in farming activities, the SSU production team launched a new reality TV show called Don’t Lose the Plot in March 2017. Funded by USAID’s Feed the Future programme, and working with Africa Lead, the show aimed to encourage youth to consider farming as a lucrative career choice, and provide information on how to start an agribusiness and share useful agronomic information. As part of the programme, which was aired in Kenya and Tanzania between May and July 2017, four young farmers from the two countries were provided with 0.4 ha of land to turn it into successful and profitable farms within 9 months. The winner would receive a prize of €8,960 to be used for their own farming operations back home.

Winrose Kaya from Tanzania emerged as the winner after working side-by-side with the show’s experts to divide her farm into different sections. She planted quick maturing crops, including onions, potatoes, coriander, cabbage and spinach, and reared 500 broiler chicks. On returning home after completion of the competition, her parents offered her 0.5 ha of land, recognising their daughter’s agricultural skills and ability to make a profit. The show was watched by 4.1 million youth in Kenya and Tanzania.

Whilst airing Don’t Lose the Plot, The Mediae Company also created Budget Mkononi, an interactive web-based tool to help young farmers calculate the input costs of a chosen crop, as well as how much profit they could make over a short period of time. Nearly 25,000 youths are currently using the Budget Mkononi tool to start up farming projects in, for example, onions, potatoes and poultry to achieve maximum profit. “At first, I didn’t realise that I could change the prices to suit my situation. But now that I know, I think the tool is useful and will help me to plan my spending,” says Janet Oloo, one of the young beneficiaries from Kenya. Gregory Mutisya, also from Kenya, says the free budget service has greatly helped him in planning and making informed decisions, and has enabled him to attain the projected profit from his vegetable farm.