Tanzania Reality Show Tackles Gender Inequality, Awards Women Farmers Cash And Farm Tools

This reality show drama is actually worth watching.

Preparing to film its fifth season, Oxfam Tanzania’s series about women farmers highlights the gender inequalities this demographic faces and demonstrates women’s value in the industry. "Mama Shujaa wa Chakula," or "Female Food Heroes," brings 18 women to live together for three weeks to engage in various farming competitions, and grants the show's winner an opportunity to expand her operation.

Though women make up 75 percent of Tanzania's farmers, they often live in poverty and their contributions are often overlooked, Oxfam told Reuters.

<p>A woman works in the field of Loi Bangoti's farm July 18, 2007 in Ngiresi near the Tanzanian town of Arusha.</p>

A woman works in the field of Loi Bangoti's farm July 18, 2007 in Ngiresi near the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Karel Prinsloo/ Associated Press

Viewers vote for the winner who gets 20 million Tanzanian shillings (about $9,500) and farming and fishing tools.

For Anna Oloshuro, one of the top three winners in 2011, it wasn’t just about the prizes she took home. It was the way her community shifted their perception of her after the competition.

Before the show, Oloshuro told Oxfam that men would tell their wives to stay away from her and that she was “cursed.”

But after she appeared on "Female Food Heroes," Oloshuro was regarded as a revered leader of the community. Now, men won’t even call a meeting without her, she said.

The show comes at a time when women are playing ever-increasing roles in the farming industry, but their rights haven’t quite yet caught up with the progress.

Now that more men is rural areas are working in cities, about half of all farmers are women who produce more than half the world's food, according to World Watch. Still, women farmers are often deprived of such basic rights as land ownership.

Yet, if women were given equal access to resources, food output would increase to a point that it could pull 100 to 150 million people out of hunger, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. concluded in a report released in 2011.

Tired of such inequities, the show’s winners often use their fame to help improve conditions for women farmers.

Last season’s winner, Bahati Muriga, took home the grand prize after building a grass-thatched hut for raising chicken and then producing hand-hoes for sale, the Citizen reported.

She vowed to use her winnings to expand her farm and support legislation to revolutionize the agricultural sector.

“Small-scale farmers play a key role not only in their own families but also the nation at large,” Muriga told the Citizen.

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