Reality TV shows of the home improvement and restaurant/bar business makeover variety have become a popular entertainment staple in the United States recently. Media for Education and Development, in partnership with global extension, health and international aid agencies, have taken this expert “rescue” concept and applied it to help struggling farmers in rural East Africa with the “Shamba Shape Up” series. (“Shamba” is a Swahili term for farm.) Instead of a renowned chef helping a struggling restaurant owner identify the flaws in his or her menu or staff, the Shamba Shape Up features their media team as well as invited experts in veterinary medicine, for instance, or beekeeping or pest control visiting small farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to help them address specific farming problems that may be affecting their crops or farm animals. Show hosts and experts are from the region, and their recommendations reflect the culture of East African countries and practices.
The program estimates that in its first seasons the uptake of the evidence-based agricultural practices from the show resulted in an increase of over $24 million (US) net gain for just two of the farming enterprises, dairy and maize. The audience is estimated at over 10 million farmers.
The program is available on television and radio. A special “iShamba” text messaging service is available to receive farming tips from the show specific to the subscribers’ crops, livestock and location. Full episodes and clips are available on the Shamba Shape Up web site. Viewers of the series are also encouraged to text requests for relevant informational leaflets or download them from the site.
The World Bank recognized Shamba Shape Up during its Harvest Nutrition Contest in 2013.