Reality TV Shape Up

Reality television seems to be going downhill, at least in the United States anyway. Coming this summer, celebrity based shows like MTV’s “Snooki & JWoww”, and Fox’s “The Choice”, celebrate vanity and narcissism.  Fortunately, in other parts of the world celebrities are using their influence to spread knowledge on sustainability and farm management.

One example is “Shamba Shape – Up” (Shamba is Swahili for ‘small farm) is a reality show based in Kenya. Every episode the team visits a new farm in need and over 4 days,  remakes the farm to be more efficient and a more comfortable and healthier environment for those who work there. The show stars soap stars Tonny Njuguna and Naomi Kamau, and a team of experts that includes vetrinarians, soil analysists, and crop specialists. 

Based in Kenya, the reality show Shamba Shape-Up puts a new spin on reality TV.

Based in Kenya, the reality show Shamba Shape-Up puts a new spin on reality television.

The show is not your typical makeover show where a makeover is done purely for the entertainment of the viewer, the advice given in the show can be applied to any shamba.  At the end of each episode, viewers can SMS their names and addresses to receive free leaflets on the topics covered in the show. The show is produced by Mediae, a ‘edutainment’ company, who develop media for education and development. The show also has numerous partners, including the Africa Soil Health Consortium, and many other organizations focused on developing business and innovation in Africa.

The show, which began airing in March, will end its first season in June. The show reaches about 4 million people in Kenya and hopes to expand  its viewership to Tanzania and Uganda. The show, which  is broadcast on Citizen TV, is receiving a positive response with up to 3,000 messages requesting information after each show each episode.

I watched the pilot episode, which is available on the “Shamba Shape – Up” website and Youtube, and found it very educational but also entertaining. Some of the issues addressed in the episode included : providing healthy food for cows during the dry season, creating sustainable stoves for indoor cooking, efficiently growing crops to create the best yield. As someone with a background in entomology, I found the pesticide free push-pull technique as means to prevent loss of crop to the maize stalk borer moth very interesting.

“Shamba Shape-Up” provides a much needed dialogue between agricultural researches and East African farmers.  The rural audience for television is rapidly growing and “Shamba Shape Up” is a show that not only satisfies the need for entertainment but also addresses issues that cna increase farm productivity and income .

Photo Via Shamba Shape-Up Website

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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