CNN’s African Voices Changemakers explores Shamba Shape Up

On the latest episode of the African Voices Changemakers, CNN International’s Arit Okpo explores reality television, meeting the people behind Kenya’s Shamba Shape Up.

“Shamba” is Swahili for ‘small farm’ and farmers are the stars of this hit reality show. Producer Patricia Gichinga explains the format of the show, “We travel around looking for farmers who have problems on their farms. We go to these farms find out what their problems are, and we bring in the experts and teach the farmers how to farm better.”

When the show launched ten years ago, the creators claimed it to be the first of its kind in Africa. It now reaches an audience of eight million people across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

CNN follows the show revisiting the first farmer who appeared on the series. George Kararu speaks about his experience, “Shamba Shape Up has been beneficial to me. I was able to increase my core production quite a bit. I was having one cow, today I have quite a number and I’ve sold quite a number of them.”

Kararu has been using the skills Shamba Shape Up gave him to teach other farmers. He talks about his initiative, “After getting the knowledge from the show I founded Desara to bring other members, other farmers together. We formed a group that’s a farming group primarily on daily production and chicken production and we are doing very well now.”

As the show enters production for another series, Gichinga and the team have identified a key problem that farmers are facing – climate change. Gichinga describes how the show will address this issue, “We’ve decided for this year is to do some special episodes just on climate change adaptation, so here we are teaching farmers simple methods and technology that they can use to adapt.”

As well as this climate outreach, the show is also focused on social outreach. While the production team is hoping to encourage more women and young people to take up farming, Gichinga explains they are also hoping to reach a different audience, “We’re very interested in working with the prisons and we want to put Shamba Shape Up in all the prisons within Kenya so that inmates can be able to get some knowledge. So, once they’re out there, they have some sort of skills in order to make a living. And that also helps that they don’t go back to the bad vices.”

Shamba Shake Up aims to help farmers and support them with useful data that will yield results. Gichinga sums up the show’s ethos, “I think our pride is being able to reach farmers with information that is timely, that is event based, and is useful to them.”