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.

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