Belle and her Baby!

Gracchus in his calf pen shortly after being born

Graccus in his calf pen shortly after being born

It is with so much excitement that Shamba Shape Up can announce that Belle, the resident Jersey cow, has had her calf! The boy, who has been named Graccus, was born on Saturday last week, quickly and easily to the first time mother. Belle is a pure bred Jersey cow belonging to series producer Anne Marie. Belle has been featured on the show’s social media sites as a way of connecting with our viewers, farmer to farmer, who are learning as we learn. Belle arrived on Anne Marie’s farm 3 months ago, already pregnant. It was her first pregnancy. We had hoped the calf would be a heifer, who in turn would also provide milk, however the bull calf will still provide Anne Marie with a good sale as a stud bull when he is weaned. It is well known in the dairy world that Jerseys are easy calvers, however no one expected Graccus’ arrival both to be so easy and so quick! He was born 1 week early, and within the space of twenty minutes! Anne Marie left Belle tied to a tree to collect some more water for her. On her return she was surprised to find the calf quietly lying on the ground in front of his mother!

Gracchus and Belle waited patiently for Anne Marie

Graccus and Belle waited patiently for Anne Marie

The calf will stay on Anne Marie’s farm with Belle until he is roughly 8 months old, after which he will be sold. He is already sampling early weaner pellets, and growing fast! Belle will continue to be milked, something she is a little unsure of (definitely not a fan – she broke her milking stall on the first attempt), and in around 3 months’ time, will be served with AI using Jersey bull semen.

Belle will wait until her second heat after the birth to be impregnated again via AI

Belle will wait until her second heat after the birth to be impregnated again via AI

However, until then, we are looking forward to seeing the baby grow and will keep you updated on his progress!


Filming Series 6 in Embu


With Series 5 broadcast well under way in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya every week, it was never to be long before filming for the new series began again.

With new director, Ken, settled in and learning the Shamba Shape Up ropes, the cast and crew set off to Embu in Kenya to meet up again with Hellen, a busy farmer who has been on the show in the past.

Hellen was seen in Series 5, but she needed a bit more help – her cow, which had been the focus of the Series 5 episode, had died of complications during birth. Despite this setback, she had already covered her losses by getting another cow and was keen to raise the animal’s milk production from the meagre 6 litres she was getting currently.

Karis adds a feed trough to the new cattle shed for easy feeding

Karis adds a feed trough to the new cattle shed for easy feeding

The content we needed to cover with Hellen included correct supplementation for dairy cows, and with this in mind, we took Hellen to meet another farmer in her area whose cows produced over 18 litres per cow per day. The farmer-to-farmer interaction made for interesting filming, and is something we are keen to replicate throughout the new series.

Despite problems with her cow, Hellen had had a great deal of success with the d.Light solar lamp, installed during her Series 5 shape-up. The lamp was now being used daily to allow her children to study later into the night, helping them to reach better grades in school.

The new episode also focused on raising broiler chickens, with health, hygiene and feeding forming the focus of the series, and vaccination against Newcastle Disease for her local chickens.

The episode also introduced a new idea for farmers with little space or very steep land. The vertical bag garden, by partner RealIPM, as a way for farmers who live in smaller areas to grow large amounts of produce. The vertical bag garden is a simple, yet effective, way of growing leafy greens (such as kale) in a small space, and farmers can grow beetroot, onions and even maize in the open top of the bag. This bag is better than flying gardens made of old sacks, as the material is already perforated with planting holes at the right spacing, the material deflects the sun, stopping soil degradation, and the bags come in different sizes. Their expert also spoke about using loans to get into the vertical bag business, which RealIPM is developing with its financial partners.

All in all, filming was a success, with a great episode to look forward to in Series 6. Next, the crew head to Kajiado to meet a Maasai farmer, Godfrey, and his wife Evelyn.

Schoolchildren from the local area watch the filming with interest

Schoolchildren from the local area watch the filming with interest

Meet Shamba Shape Up’s newest director!

Shamba Shape Up has started once again filming across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda for the new 6th series, which will be airing later in the year.

As the series co-incides with the start of filming of Makutano Junction‘s 14th series, Patricia, who directed a lot of series 5, is currently busy with production on the set of the hit drama show.

This has meant that a new director has joined our forces, which brings us to Ken. Ken has worked in East Africa before and lives in the UK. We sat down with him to ask him some questions and get to know him a bit better!


Full name: Ken Pugh (Kenneth Ian Pugh)

Occupation: Video director

Is this your first time in Kenya?: No, third time.  I’ve been filming pastoralists in the drylands around Lodwar in Turkana growing Aloe, the Chagga people on the border with Tanzania who have developed an effective pyramid farming technique on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and in central Kenya have filmed the development of drought resistant high yield chick peas to combat the effects of climate change.

What do you think the challenges are going to be working in Kenya?: Getting to understand local customs is always a challenge – what may be an amusing comment in one place may be an insult somewhere else – different forms of greeting, different foods and drinks – it can be a challenge but of course it can also be very rewarding – a breath of fresh air, to see how people live and enjoy themselves in different ways is such a privilege.

1st impressions of SSU?: It’s very clear everyone enjoys working on the show.  And even though this will be the sixth series everyone is looking and see how things could be taken forward even further – there’s no resting on past success.  There’s a great appetite to try out new ideas, to experiment, and above all to make something that’s fun but informative, something people will enjoy watching while hopefully taking away some great ideas.

What do you like about the show?: I like the human touch the presenters bring to the show and how they help put across really innovative ideas alongside tried and trusted farming techniques in a really engaging way.  And its not all about mastering complex procedures – it’s really interesting seeing how sometimes small simple changes can make a really big difference.

What changes do you have in mind?: I’d like to see the farmers take a more prominent role.  They are the real experts on their farms after all – I think it would be really great if farmers could exchange ideas through the show – it’s not all about top – down knowledge, sometimes it can work the other way around.


Partners Meeting


Last week, Shamba Shape Up held a meeting with all our partn​ers for Series 5 and​ Series 6 to learn a bit more about the show, the behind the scenes work that goes into it, and take ​a tentative look at the results from the series aired so far.

The day, which had several of our biggest partners present, was a huge success, with partners learning that there is so much more to Shamba Shape Up than just the show!


Anne Marie, the S​eries P​roducer, shared​ details about the show’s audience ​reach​, ​which has stayed fairly steady, despite the change over from analogue to digital in Kenya​, and which for the first time extends into Tanzania and Uganda​, alongside the audience demographics, participation, how ​the SMS database works​ and the show’s large social media following.

Anne Marie’s presentation is available here.

After, Rachel and Ann came up to discuss our newest service, iShamba. iShamba. A mobile information service for farmers.​ With hundreds of ​new-subscribers every week, Rachel let partners know some of the opportunities for their further involvement. She touched specifically on Mea Fertiliser’s success, which you can read about in last week’s blog post here.


After the presentations were over, partners were invited to meet with the staff who create the show, and work behind the scenes.

Tables were set up with the show’s editors who explained​ the process of how the film shot on location is taken and then ​edited down to make an episode. Mark, our graphic designer was also on hand to explain how pictures are added to the film to make information easier to understand.


Serro, the Head of Sound and Radio, was also available to explain how popular the new Shamba Shape Up ​radio show has been, and how it is being reached by listeners across the whole of Kenya. It airs in Swahili on Citizen Radio at 9.30pm each week day and you can listen to archive recordings here.

SMS Service Manager, Mary, and Communications Officer, Katharine, worked together to show partners how the SMS service works and how best to use it to disseminate information to interested farmers. The SMS service was in particular demand as partners learnt how best they can reach farmers with the leaflet system. Katharine explained how the leaflets are made and how information can be given by partners to be added to the leaflets.

Katharine also explained the popularity of the show on social media – the Facebook page being one of the more popular agricultural pages in the region with over 45,000 likes. Partners were also interested to learn how Shamba Shape Up is on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, LinkedIn and, of course, our blog here.

The meeting ended in lunch, where partners got to discuss their segments within the show, as well as chat to other members of staff. Partners also were given the chance to practise playing ‘expert’ by taking to the front of the camera with the presenters and try their hand at being an expert on the show – something some took to more readily than others!​

The meeting ended in lunch, where partners had the opportunity to discuss their segments within the show, as well as chat to other members of staff.


Mea Fertilizer Hits iShamba!

We know that iShamba is loved by farmers, we hear it every day. They appreciate having somewhere to ask those snagging farming questions, and having someone to call when they want advice on building their chicken sheds or how to get more milk from their cow, ​for example.
But now Mea Fertilizer love iShamba too! Recently​ we timed a series of SMS to farmers in areas where it was time to be top-dressing their soil, in conjunction with Mea Fertilizer. ​We let subscribers know the benefits of top-dressing, and then suggested Mea Fertiliser as a good choice.
It was a hit!
In fact we had so many calls from farmers wanting to know more about top-dressing that our call centre crashed for a short period (dont worry, it was up again in no time).
Top dressing is a great way to increase your yield. It helps your crops develop by providing the essential nutrients it needs to grow. This is especially valuable in the rainy season when existing nutrients can be washed away.  This is common in sandy loam soil; Mea 27% CAN is an excellent top dressing fertiliser solution for this.
If you’d like to get in touch with iShamba to discuss how your product could add value to a farmer’s life, contact sG

Shamba Shape Up Celebrates World Environment Day


Today, the 5th June 2015, was World Environment Day. Throughout the show, Shamba Shape Up promotes the importance of looking after the world we live in through good practices.

In the words of the United Nations Environment Programme, the organisation who has been the driving force behind the initiative to bringing the environment to the fore-front of our news, World Environment Day has ‘grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.’

This year’s theme is ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.’ It aims to encompass ‘the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources.’

Looking after the world can happen in more than just one way – reduce, recycle, reuse, respect is a great mantra to live by and one that Shamba Shape Up aims to promote via the medium of TV, radio, leaflets and our mobile information service iShamba to our audience of over 10 million people across East Africa.

During Series 5, which is currently on TV, we have focused on the importance of having healthy soil by using compost to enrich the soil for better growth, as well as ways to stop the negative effects of soil erosion and land degradation.

In the next series, we hope to discuss many issues surrounding environmental degradation such as the global loss of the honey bee and human-wildlife conflict.

Learn more about World Environment Day here and how to get involved with making your day one about the environment!

And why not add your Tweet about what your dream is for a better world – don’t forget to use the hashtag #7Billion dreams! Shamba Shape Up has already done theirs!

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Or get involved with Shamba Shape Up and #WorldEnvironmentDay on Facebook by seeing what the staff from the office dreamed for the future.

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