East Africa’s Reality TV Show Crowns Top Youth Farmers

Winrose, a 24 year old from Meru, Tanzania competed against and outperformed three other contestants in the Feed the Future and USAID supported farming reality TV series, “Don’t Lose the Plot.”

If the finale of East Africa’s first-ever farming reality TV show and competition “Don’t Lose the Plot” were treated like a four person regional farming Olympics for East Africa, Tanzania would have finished in first and second place bringing in the gold and silver, with Kenya taking a very close bronze for third and fourth place. Instead, the thirteen episode series televised across East Africa was a contest to see who could apply their “farm-u-cation” the best with all four contestants receiving a farming investment.

Created, designed and produced by Kenya-based organization Mediae, Don’t Lose the Plot was supported by Africa Lead, Feed the Future and USAID’s Africa-wide capcity building program for agriculture. Mercy Corps and leading commercial agricutural partners also supported the program.

The show focused on four young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania, farming and living side-by-side throughout the growing season competing to win a prize worth US$10,000. The top contestant walked away with an agribusiness investment worth $10,000 – the value of one acre back at the winner’s home. The second contestant received a $5,000 investment and the next two were each awarded a similar investment valued at $2,500.

For the contestants – two from Tanzania (one young woman and man) and two from Kenya (one young woman and man) – the experience was more like a living class room. Each managed a one acre plot for nine months and walked away with essential farming knowledge from industry experts and applied experience. Over the course of the show each contestant was ranked by the show’s judges, comprised of industry experts and technical advisors from the various companies and organizations that partnered on the compeition. The judges and advisors also educated the contestants in areas of agribusiness planning, value chains, financial management and budgeting, marketing, crops and inputs, and specifics related to livestock.

In the end, all contestants performed incredibly well and each had farming operations that brought in profits that combined, totaled Kenya Shillings (Ksh) 828,000 or just over $8,000. On average the four contestants showed a 71.5% profit after recovering their investments.

Photo credits: Mediae

Winrose, a twenty-four year old woman from Meru, Tanzania was crowned the top farmer of the four. Judges indicated that her diversification in and success with potatoes, onions, cabbage, kale and spinach were a result of the group’s investment in drip irrigation. It was the 5 x 500 batches of broiler chickens that she became well known for on the show. As the judges pointed out, to make money in broiler chicks you need to feed the chicks well , always provide water and get them to market at 35 days old. Winrose made an investment of Ksh 318,000 ($3,080). After recovering her investment she made a profit of Ksh 259,000 ($2,500), an 81 percent profit on her investment. Winrose had the choice of winning a one acre plot back home but she choose a $10,000 investment into her family farm.

Issah, also from Tanzania came in second in the judge’s rankings. He planted butternut, kale, spinach, and tomatoes. He also took a run at broiler chicks. The judges noted his investment in kale and spinach was a good move that made money weekly. He invested 285,000 Ksh ($2,760) and after recovering those costs, made a profit of Ksh 230,000 ($2,225)  – a 74% return. He won a $5,000 farming investement from the show.

The youngest of the group, 19 year old Kenneth from Kenya, invested the most and had a strong return on investment, but took a different route that really paid off. He invested in a cow in addition to his coriander, onions, kale and spinach. Kenneth’s cow had a calf and he supplied milk to the farm’s neighbors and fellow competitors. In the end the judges pointed out that it took his onions a long time to get to market. He did well by selling the cow in calf, as well as his other calf once it had grown. Overall, Kenneth had a Ksh 367,000 ($3,550) profit of Ksh 249,000 ($2,410) profit 67% return on investment. In the end he won $2,500 farming investment.

Also from Kenya, Leah, a 28 year old mom-turned fashion entrepreneur brought her competitiveness and experience everyday to the farm. She grew potatoes, mushrooms, capsicum and courgette (zucchini), though she unfortunately tomatoes became effected by disease. Leah made an investment of Ksh 140,000 ($1,350) and netted a Ksh 90,000 ($870) profit, or a 64% return. Despite her 4th place finish, Leah was excited about her farming future. Her grandmother gave her a piece of land and she was taking the $2,500 farming investment to start a farming business with green peas and mushrooms.

Winrose, who walked away with the the top prize, showed how much of an impact the “farm-u-cation” had on her when she was interviewed during the show’s finale.

“I’m happy, because it’s a surprise for me,” said Winrose during her interview with one of the show’s hosts. When asked what she’d do with the prize, she said she’ll “go home and start to do the research.” She doesn’t want to plant the same things she did on her competition plot in Kenya, the land is different in Tanzania. She does’t “want to take a loss.”

Most importantly at the end of the show, contestants didn’t just learn how to turn a profit from farming. They all showed young aspiring East African farmers how not to “lose the plot.”

To learn more about “Don’t Lose the Plot” and to watch all episodes online, visit: www.dontlosetheplot.tv

Watch the announcement of the winner:

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