Shamba Shape Up farmer speaks on Sustainable Development Goals

This week, the United Nations will officially adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – an ambitious set of targets that will shape international development programmes all over the world.

At Shamba Shape Up, we have been working with East Africa’s smallholder farmers on many of the issues that feature in the SDGs. As some of the world’s poorest populations, our educational TV show helps farmers become more productive, thus ending poverty in their communities (goal one). We also equip them with tools to combat climate change (goal 13) and to sustainably manage water (goal six).

As part of Farming First’s new creative project “The SDGs and Me”, we interviewed a farmer we worked with to find out what he hoped the SDGs would bring to his community in Karatina in Kenya.

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“The cost of farm equipment required by small scale farmers is rising,” Michael comments. This includes equipment for labour production to fertilisers and agro-feeds for animals. This, in turn, leads to increased costs of production that are passed on to consumers through expensive, unaffordable products. It is difficult to market these products, especially when producers compete with imported products that cost less. “I hope our government will encourage consumption of local products and rely on food imports less,” he told us. “This will provide a platform to invest in exportation to foreign markets, increasing in revenue for farmers.”

To keep costs down and improve productivity, Michael has joined farmer union,that hire out equipment and provide inputs at a subsidized cost. He has also signed up for our free SMS service “iShamba” that gives farmers access to agricultural experts, to ask questions and get advice.

 “iShamba has taught us both a great deal about the effects climate change has on the region, such as erosion, changing weather patterns, drought and desertification through deforestation,” says Michael. “These are all things we knew little about and are not discussed widely among the farming community or government.”

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Michael also hopes the government and private sector will invest in research and development of better inputs, for increased productivity “That will eventually end hunger, and also show businessmen that the agricultural sector is as fulfilling as any other industrial sector in the economy.”

To hear what the other farmers hope for from the SDG process, visit Farming First’s website to view the collection of ten farmer stories collected from around the world.

Filming Series 6 in Kenya

Tonny and Naomi film a segment of the new TV in Busia, Kenya

Tonny and Naomi film a segment of the new TV in Busia, Kenya

With Series 5 drawing to a close on TV this week (haven’t seen the new series yet? Head over to our website to see series 5 in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) it hardly means work in the Shamba Shape Up office stops. We have already spent many weeks visiting farmers, scouting for and filming Series 6, which will air in 2016.

In the last few weeks, the crew has spent time in Kenya’s Western and Nyanza areas, filming on shambas in Homabay, Kisii and Busia.

As farmers harvest and plan for the short rains, and the strong possibility of El Nino hitting hard, the crew have been busy filming planting, how to use fertilisers and better varieties, before the downpour begins!

On Praxedece’s farm in Busia, we focused on nutrition, and learned how to use the drought resistant crop, sorghum, for better health and nutrition. Nutrition expert Eric Manyasa, from ICRISAT, taught the farmer how to make chapattis out of sorghum flour. Sorghum flour is high in protein, iron and fibre, as well as antioxidants, which support cardiac health. It is also wheat free and takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling fuller for longer – a great alternative to maize and wheat flour.

Selling sorghum as flour makes it easier to store your harvest for longer so you can sell when prices are better. Sorghum flour is rising in popularity in Kenya’s export markets, as people search for gluten-free options.

By making her sorghum into flour for her own consumption and for sale, Praxedece will not only have a healthier diet, but a healthier profit from her farm.

In October, the crew is heading to Uganda, to see how our Ugandan friends are getting on. We promise to keep you updated from there!

How much labour is done by women in African agriculture: telling fact from myth?

Some interesting research into smashing the myths surrounding women in agriculture.

Particularly interested to read about how much of the agricultural sector is made up by women: ‘It is commonly cited that women’s labour contribution in African farming is between 60 to 80% but is this true? The 2010-2011 State of Food and Agriculture report from the FAO, the theme of which was women in agriculture, was a key publication in shedding light on this gender gap and reported that women make up around 50% of the agricultural labour force in Africa. A paper by Palacios-Lopez et al (2015) calculated that women contribute some 40% of agricultural labour hours to crop production, lower than commonly used estimates.’

One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

Image courtesy of [africa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Image courtesy of [africa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net What if what we thought to be true about African agriculture was wrong? So often we turn to well used statistics and commonly-held beliefs when we describe the challenges African farmers face: low access to credit and inputs, high post-harvest losses and imperfect markets. We rely on conventional wisdom to characterise agriculture across the whole continent, in part to make up for the lack of sound evidence on which to base our characterisations.

Now a new project entitled “Agriculture in Africa– Telling Facts from Myths” aims to test the validity of common wisdom and update our understanding of farming in Africa. An update desperately needed due to our reliance on outdated knowledge and rapid socio-economic and physical changes happening in Africa. Initiated by the Chief Economist’s Office of the World Bank Africa Region, the project is a collaboration with the African Development…

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Farming First: agricultural activities as a poverty reduction tool

Over the past five series, the Shamba Shape Up team has been visiting farms across the East African region to meet farmers who are in need of practical agricultural advice.

The show, which was the first of its kind within the area, is aimed at East Africa’s rapidly growing rural audience. The make-over style of the TV show aims to give both farmer and audience the tools they need to improve productivity and income on their farms. The Shape Up team visit a different farm each week in a different area of the region. The team comprises a film crew and a number of experts from partner organisations which specialise in the topics to be covered in the episode. Programmes tackle issues related to livestock, poultry, crops and soil fertility. Other relevant topics such as financial planning, solar power and harvesting rainwater are also included, depending on the needs of the farmer in the episode.

At Shamba Shape Up, we believe that free, up to date and easy to understand information should be available to all, using mass media as the conduit, with the eventual aim of reducing poverty and increasing food security.

Since the start, each series has contained a number of re-visit episodes. This is where the cast and crew return to shaped-up farms from earlier in the series to find out how farmers are getting on. These episodes are particularly popular with viewers as it gives them the chance to see how small changes can lead to positive results.

An example is Lydia’s shamba in Nakuru. Shamba Shape Up visited her farm in Series Two, to find her having problems with her cows which are not producing much milk. An additional component within the episode explained how to grow chilies. Lydia had had a good harvest that season, but was finding it hard to sell at a profit. Her chilies were ready to pick and sell at the same time as everyone else in the area, resulting in a lower price. However, during the shape-up the team discussed with her the idea of drying her chilies and then keeping them until prices had risen.   They introduced her to a handmade solar drier, which allowed the chilies (as well as other vegetables like sukuma wiki, amaranth and cabbages) to be dried using the heat of the sun.

Lydia dries her chilies and sells them to local hotels and supermarkets.

Lydia dries her chilies and sells them to local hotels and supermarkets.

When the team returned to see Lydia’s progress later in the series, they found business was booming. The drying of the chilies had enabled her to get better prices for her crops and she had even started supplying local hotels and supermarkets with her dried vegetables, resulting in a significant increase in her income. She had made so much extra money she had been able to enroll her child into boarding school and was planning to make another solar drier to keep up with demand.

Lydia grinds up her dried chilies and sells them at a better price.

Lydia grinds up her dried chilies and sells them at a better price.

Another great example of the contribution Shamba Shape Up makes towards poverty reduction in the field of agriculture can be seen on the shamba of Hellen, featured in the most recent series.

During the shape-up, Hellen received help and advice on a variety of topics, including growing tissue culture bananas, improving her dairy cows, the importance of doing a soil test and why joining a farmers’ group can help with agricultural productivity.

When the team revisited Hellen’s farm they were surprised to see that she had taken her small ¾ acre plot to an intensified and increased level of productivity, through the profits of a new business she had started. During her shape-up, the audience had been introduced to the d.Light solar lamps that feature regularly on the show. The d.Light solar lamp is an alternative to using kerosene, paraffin or candles in the home. Solar light is better for health and more economical. Hellen had heard about d.Light before and had even owned their smallest lamp for around two years. Her children had been using it in the evening to study longer and improve their grades. D.Light expert, Martin, showed her their new ‘home system’ which can be installed in each room of the house, allowing everyone to share and benefit from the solar light.

Martin from d.Light explains how solar power is better for your health, and your pocket!

Martin from d.Light explains how solar power is better for your health, and your pocket!

With the money Hellen saved from not buying paraffin every day, she bought more solar lamps, and then begun to sell them to friends, family and local farmers in her newly joined farmers’ group.

With the money she was making for her solar light business, she had improved her shamba and was growing more vegetables and fruit then ever. In turn, the more she was making at market from the shamba was now paying for her children’s school fees; something she had been unable to pay for in the past.

International Youth Day

​Today, Thursday ​12th August, is International Youth Day.

Kenya is a very young country so this is especially relevant for us; did you know that an astonishing 42% of Kenya’s population is under-15?! ​Kenya’s future depends on having the right employment opportunities and growth sectors for these young folk to contribute to. For Shamba Shape Up‘s part, we like to showcase that farming should not be seen as “old man’s work” but rather, when done right, can be an opportunity for a thriving, sustainable agri-business.  Definitely a sector that young people should consider!

To celebrate International Youth Day, we​’re looking back at some of the young entrepreneurial farmers we’ve met over the past 5 series of Shamba Shape Up.

In our first series, we met Jeremiah, a young farmer from Kikuyu who inherited his shamba from his grandfather at​ age 26. A keen farming entrepreneur, Jeremiah was trying his hand at tomatoes and livestock. Several years later he has a young family and now speaks about the value of farming to local schools, alongside his farming work.

Jeremiah sits with his grandfather, who he inherited the farm from.

Jeremiah sits with his grandfather, who he inherited the farm from

Jeremiah speaking to youth in schools about how to make money and keep healthy from farming.

Jeremiah speaking to youth in schools about how to make money and keeping healthy from farming

Another youth farmer who made a particular impact on our viewers was Kioko. Kioko had been working on his shamba since he had left school 11 years prior. He had made such a success of the shamba that he inspired his brother to quit his low paying mechanical job in Nairobi and join him!

Kioko sits with Tonny and discusses why he and his brother turned away from life in the city to settle on the shamba.

Kioko sits with Tonny and discusses why he and his brother turned away from life in the city to settle on the shamba

Another example who can hardly be forgotten is our Series 4 competition winner, Eric! Eric entered the Shamba Shape Up Facebook competition to win a shape up for his family farm​ in Naro Moru. Eric ​was studying at university at the time, but helped his father out on the shamba and aspired to take it over once he had completed his education.

Eric's family mainly work in Nairobi, but he hopes to break tradition by going back to the shamba.

Eric’s family mainly work in Nairobi, but he hopes to break tradition by going back to the shamba.

Eric was a great example of how the youth can ​bring modern ideas, such a​s online research, computer business management tools​ and the benefit of crowd sourcing answers to their farming problems via social media sites like Twitter, Instagram or blogs, ​which can all help to improve ​the productivity of a family’s shamba.

Eric won the Shamba Shape Up Facebook competition, and uses the Internet a lot to learn more about how to improve his shamba.

Eric won the Shamba Shape Up Facebook competition, and uses the Internet a lot to learn more about how to improve his shamba.

We hope you will join us on Twitter and Facebook to celebrate ​Kenya’s youth, ​#YouthDay and help spread the word that #farmingiscool!

Filming in Kikuyu, Kenya

Having finished filming in Embu, the team headed on to Kikuyu, a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi, to meet farmer Samuel Kamau whose shamba was in need serious need of a shape up!

Samuel has been an active farmer for many years and owns cows, chickens and a greenhouse. However, he has been struggling to turn his small shamba into an active and prosperous business.

Help was at hand from the Shamba Shape Up team and our experts! A cow expert from Coopers explained the importance of good breeding when it comes to keeping cattle for both diary and meat. He suggested using artificial insemination (AI) to get an assured breed, and even a specific sex (sexed semen). They also discussed the importance of keeping records so that Samuel could know when his animals were likely to come on heat. Understanding heat is key to AI, as this tells you when it’s the best time for insemination.

As well as cows, we looked at Samuel’s chickens. Samuel raises chickens for meat, but had been having problems getting them to a good weight for sale. We discussed the importance of proper feeding in achieving this. We also looked at the chicken’s hygiene and health as there had been some issues which were related to the bird’s lack of vaccination at an early age.
Peter, from Royal Seed, becomes the first ever mzungu (white) presenter on the show!

Peter, from Royal Seed, becomes the first ever mzungu (white) presenter on the show!

Finally, the crew spent time inside Samuel’s greenhouse. Kenya Highland Seed Company, better known as Royal Seed, sent Peter Francombe as an expert to explain why it is good practise to plant certified seeds instead of the seeds from last year’s harvest. Peter (the show’s first ever mzungu expert!) discussed the importance of using seed that suits your region and weather.
Samuel had been growing capsicum plants inside his greenhouse

Samuel had been growing capsicum plants inside his greenhouse

Samuel had been planting capsicums, which had been infected with a disease called Powdery mildew. This disease is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil, which we confirmed with a soil test from Soil Cares. Calcium deficiency can be easily solved by adding CAN fertiliser to the soil. 

Some of the capsicums had diseases such as Powdery mildew, such as this one

Some of the capsicums had diseases such as Powdery mildew, such as this one

Next week Shamba Shape-Up will be moving on to a farm in Meru, where we shall update you from next!

Man Made Milking Machine!

cow tongue

While filming on a farm in Limuru, Kenya for another episode of the new series, we came across one of the fastest milkers we had ever seen on our travels! The farmer, who owned over 30 cows and a massive 17,000 chickens, was clearly used to getting a lot of work done in a short amount of time.

Check his skills out in the video below and tell us if you think you could do better!