Winrose was a shy 24-year-old, high school educated woman who spent most of her days working on her parents’ farm in Meru, Tanzania. Now, Winrose is a full-fledged farmer with experience and profits in the bank to prove it, thanks to the practical skills she gained as one of the four youth farmers competing on Don’t Lose the Plot (DLTP), Africa’s first agriculture reality TV show.
While Winrose doesn’t fit into the age bracket of the average African farmer, who the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates is 60 years old, she does represent a growing population of young people turning to agribusiness for employment and income. These new and young farmers were the target audience for DLTP, which ran for 13 episodes in its first season. Supported by Feed the Future’s primary capacity-building project in sub-Saharan Africa, Africa Lead II, the show aired in both English and Swahili language in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. In Kenya it reached an estimated weekly viewership of more than 2 million households, making it one of the most popular programs in the country.
DLTP encouraged East African youth to take up agribusiness as a viable career to improve their food security and increase their livelihoods. With food security and youth affairs at the core of Feed the Future’s programming, Africa Lead focused on encouraging more youth to take up leadership and entrepreneurship in agriculture to protect and enhance food security in the region.
DLTP, produced by the company Mediae (the producers of East Africa’s well known Shamba Shape Up TV show) featured four youth farmers — two from Kenya and two from Tanzania — who were each given one acre of land to turn into a successful farm in nine months. The farmers received guidance and practical insights from agriculture experts on financial planning, planting strategies, agricultural inputs, value chains, and marketing.
The show also provided information to viewers via SMS interaction and mobile applications. One very successful tool made available to viewers was the DLTP “Budget Mkononi” web tool, a budgeting tool for viewers to build personalized agribusiness budget and allowed aspiring “agri-preneurs” to see how profitable their business might be.
In the end all contestants performed incredibly well, and their combined farming operations brought in profits of Kenya Shillings (Kshs) 828,000 – or just over $8,000. On average, the four contestants showed a 71.5-percent profit after recovering their investments. Winrose walked away with an agribusiness investment worth $10,000 — the value of one acre back in her home country — after she emerged the top winner. Issah, also from Tanzania, received an investment worth $5,000 after being declared second in the competition by a panel of industry expert judges. The next two were each awarded a similar investment valued at $2,500.
“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.” To confirm how much of an impact the show’s “farm-u-cation” had, Winrose says she doesn’t want to plant the same things she did on her competition plot in Kenya – the land is different in Tanzania, and she doesn’t “want to take a loss.”
By the end of the show, Winrose and the other 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.”