The East African hit TV series "Shamba Shape Up" is partnering with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to study the effectiveness of using television and mobile phone technology to engage with smallholder farmers.
“The idea of the show is that they go to a farmer’s field and identify the areas that need to be shaped up, then bring in experts to offer advice,” says Dr. Evelyne Kiptot, a social scientist working in ICRAF’s Rural Advisory Services Unit.
At the end of each show, viewers are given a mobile number to call or SMS if they would like to get more detailed information about the farming advice that was offered during that episode.
“The whole idea behind the partnership with ICRAF is to see how this feedback mechanism works and how it can be improved,” Kiptot explains.
ICRAF’s work, which is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on four episodes of "Shamba Shape Up," each of which will look at the use of fodder shrubs in dairy farming. Filming for the first episode took place in February in Homa Bay in Western Kenya; this will be broadcast in May. Subsequent episodes will air between June and September.
Following each episode, data gathered from the SMS and calls received will be logged and disaggregated by gender to determine the type of feedback requested and whether it varies by gender, region and practice. The researchers will also conduct interviews and collect survey responses to gauge the show’s impact.
“If we consider that farmers learn best by observation, TV offers a cheaper option for farmers to access information on innovative agricultural practices directly from experts in the comfort of their own home…” the researchers wrote in their project proposal.
The popular series reaches an estimated audience of 5 million in Kenya, where it is broadcast by Citizen TV. The show is also aired in Tanzania and Uganda.
Photo credit: Shamba Shape Up Facebook page