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October 26, 2012

Reality TV Show Helps Farmers Improve Livelihoods

by Jill Craig

Inspired by the popularity of American and British home makeover shows, a television producer in Kenya has created a farming reality show that is helping farmers in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania do a better job.  The program now has more than seven million viewers. 

Entertaining, educating audiences

David Campbell has lived in Kenya since 1979, using the mass media to teach farmers how to improve their techniques.  As director of the company Mediae, Campbell aims to both educate and entertain his audiences.

After learning that 70 percent of the viewers for his popular TV drama "Makutano Junction" came from rural areas, Campbell created a farm makeover show, called "Shamba Shape-Up."  He says that while research projects and development programs may help a small group of farmers, his unique programming has a much wider impact.  

“Here, we have a TV show that can reach seven or eight million people in the region, who are in the cash economy, who can participate in this kind of work.  And they’re not being reached.  And that’s why the underscore of this whole thing is that we need to reach people because development will happen when people know what they can do and how they can participate,” stated Campbell.

True to life TV

Each episode begins with a farmer explaining his or her agricultural problems to the program’s presenters and experts.  The team provides advice and assists the farmer with planting, harvesting, pest eradication, livestock care, and even financial literacy.  At the end of the show, viewers can send a text message to receive a leaflet about the information discussed during the episode.

Presenter Tony Njuguna says the show is providing valuable expertise to rural East Africans.  And he says that's evident when his team returns to see how things have been going.

“We find that most of them have developed.  They are no longer wherever they used to be.  They have moved up and it’s quite impressive,” said Njuguna.

George Karawe Mungai participated in the first season of "Shamba Shape-Up" and is now doing a follow-up episode.  He says the show has allowed him to increase his farm’s productivity.

Mungai has even become a bit of a celebrity.  He says when he travels around, people address him as “Shamba Shape-Up.”  And he says his neighbors are also benefiting from the show.

“I’ve become almost a teacher to the society that is surrounding.  They come here, they ask me questions, I am able to teach them on how to do things,” added Mungai.

"Shamba Shape-Up" highlights approximately 13 farms each series.  It is broadcast weekly in English and Kiswahili throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.