Tanzanian reality show Female Food Heroes, sponsored by international charity Oxfam, was created to help raise the profile of the country’s hard-working, experienced female farmers, many of whom struggle to reach their full potential due to lack of access to credit, labor, and fertilizer, according to a report from the One Campaign and the World Bank. The goal, says Eluka Kibona, who manages Oxfam’s involvement with the show, was to have a “celebration that would give [female farmers] the status they deserve.”
Since the TV version of the program, Mama Shujaa wa Chakula, began airing in Tanzania in partnership with East Africa TV in 2011, they’ve done just that. The show has reached about 37 million viewers throughout the region, according to Oxfam. Each season nearly 3,000 female farmers vie for one of the 18 to 20 spots on the show, where candidates compete across an array of farming-related tasks that can include selling goods by the side of the road, repairing mud walls, and vaccinating goats.
Female Food Heroes competitions and award ceremonies are now also being held in Ethiopia and Nigeria. For Monica Maigari, who was runner up in Nigeria’s 2014 Female Food Heroes challenge, this helped turn her into a leader in her village, where “even the men” now respect her. She hopes to use her increased power to help female farmers learn to read, write, and get their products into supermarkets.
Read the full story at NPR.