Reality TV promotes climate-smart agriculture

Smallholder farmers in Zambia are facing the interlinked challenges of climate change, dwindling resources, increasing population and greater demand for food. There are many solutions, technologies and tools which can support farmers to face these challenges. However, with a lack of access to smartphones and the internet, there is a real barrier to sharing knowledge and raising awareness.

This is where Munda Makeover comes in. The first reality TV series of its kind in Zambia, this “farmer makeover show” is about farmers, for farmers. Munda Makeover, created by production company Mediae, packages climate-smart agriculture best practice along with climate information services (such as early warning alerts, seasonal forecasts and other digital agroadvisories) and delivers them to audiences nationwide, including market networks and agribusinesses, through the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). Crucially, the show both entertains and informs.

The show is an innovation of the CGIAR Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa, also known as Ukama Ustawi, and the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project. Ukama Ustawi and the AICCRA project cluster in Zambia are led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to support the diversification of smallholder agricultural systems to promote resilience in Zambia and East and Southern Africa more broadly.

Launched in November 2022, Munda Makeover promotes best farming practices for crop, tree and livestock production and marketing. It shares advice on market pricing, farmer cooperation, the consumption of nutritious foods and clean cooking practices.

In this way, Munda Makeover aims to increase farm productivity and profits, improve Zambia’s food security, and support climate change adaptation and resilience building.

Knowledge helps to build resilience

The format of Munda Makeover enables a variety of topics to be covered in an engaging way in a short space of time. During each 26-minute episode, the presenters and subject experts visit a family farm and ask the farmer what challenges they are facing. The experts then demonstrate practical solutions that could improve farming practices, including technical and commercial solutions.

Running in parallel with the main growing season in Zambia, from November to January, the initial episodes cover topics such as soil testing and seed selection. As the season progresses, the show moves on to pest and disease management, harvesting, and finally storage and markets. Woven throughout the episodes are the themes of financial inclusion, solar irrigation and efficient water use in food production, and nutrition and modern cooking solutions, with each approach presented as holistically and accessibly as possible.

“I’ve learned a lot from Munda Makeover because when I watch that show, I learned more, especially when they were making compost manure, I enjoyed that. When I go home, I'll also make compost manure.” – Catherine Moono, Zambian farmer and Munda Makeover viewer

Munda Makeover is modeled on Shamba Shape Up, a farm makeover show which has been broadcast in Kenya and Tanzania for over a decade and now reaches audiences of around 8 million people in East Africa. From the people who watched the most recent series, 93% said they had made changes on their farms after watching the show and 63% reported better yields.

In Zambia, the first season of Munda Makeover focused on profiling innovators of the AICCRA Accelerator Program: 14 businesses were selected to scale climate-smart agriculture and climate information innovations in a partnership model. The episodes showed how these small and medium-sized enterprises are strengthening the agribusiness ecosystem in Zambia by providing farmers with cost-effective and well-packaged technologies, as well as the necessary services to improve farms and maximize their potential.

For example, Munda Makeover viewers saw farmers using off-grid solar pumps coupled with micro-finance offerings. In other episodes, farmers gained access to a digital platform with critically important climate information, market prices and solar irrigation pump specifications.

IWMI and other CGIAR centers – the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and WorldFish – provided quality assurance on the information shared in the show, ensuring that it was technically sound, based on evidence and appropriate to the context.

It is important that the products promoted and used by the experts are accessible to audiences across the country, along with technical advice and education. Messages from the show can be reinforced through social media, apps and radio, for example, to promote behavioral change. The show aims for around 50% of its audience to be women.

The show is educative. Even without enough finances, you can still farm by following the show’s example of how manure was made. We have learned a lot of nice things.” – Grace Mwiinga, Zambian farmer and Munda Makeover viewer

Entertainment meets education

The first season of Munda Makeover was well-received by the 655,000 Zambians who tuned in, and many invited friends and neighbors to watch with them, reaching an estimated 1.9 million viewers. The impact of the show was extended even further as farmers shared knowledge through their communities via word-of-mouth. To reach more farmers who either do not have access to television or who speak languages other than those broadcast in the show, IWMI and AICCRA partners collaborated with the National Agricultural Information Services and Community Markets for Conservation to convert the show into radio segments, translate it into other local languages and broadcast it over ten local radio stations.

Munda Makeover has leveraged television as a powerful communication medium, using ‘edutainment’ to capture audiences and share important information in a fun and easily digestible way. The show has the potential to stimulate innovation, promote cooperation and networking, and raise awareness of the importance of climate-smart agriculture for smallholder farmers across Zambia.

CGIAR’s support of Munda Makeover is in collaboration with IWMI under the framework of the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project and with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT under the CGIAR Initiative on Diversification in East and Southern Africa. AICCRA is supported by a grant from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank.