We are in a typical rural village somewhere in the Pwani region of Tanzania. Basic houses, not very different from the housing that millions of rural Tanzanians live in, have been constructed. There is a well and a small shop.
What is different here is that there are also bright lights, television cameras and a satellite dish to send this event live to millions of people watching on television. Technicians from the Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation are sitting in the bush with their laptops making sure everything is working.
14 Female Food Heroes from across Tanzania are about to be welcomed into “The Village”. Set up by Oxfam and popular reality TV show Maisha Plus, life in the village will be filmed and televised for the next two weeks to give viewers an insight into the lives of the remarkable women who grow the nation’s food.
The women will be joined by 36 young people from urban areas around the country. The women farmers will set daily tasks from their own lives – cultivating vegetables, looking after cattle, or setting up a small village business – which the young city dwellers will need to complete in order to earn a living and put food on the table. In the “Big Brother” style diary room they will get chance to record and share their views with politicians and decision makers.
Their progress will be followed until the gala event on 16th October (World Food Day) when TV viewers and radio listeners will vote by SMS for their Female Food Hero 2012 winner.
The competition aims to give young contestants and millions of viewers a taste of what women in Tanzania go through to put food on their table. The 14 women are in many ways typical of the hard working women who contribute most of the labour and do most of the work to feed the nation. They have all shown some special determination to overcome the challenges that so many women face in order to continue to feed their families and their communities.
When travelling around the country to meet the finalists, my colleague Mwanahamisi heard about the challenge of having secure rights to land, the difficulties women face in getting credit for their farming, and even the violence that women face in their homes and sometimes in the fields.
Speaking at the opening of the village, Ummy Mwalimu, the country’s Deputy Minister for Women, Community Development and Children, said it was time to make a change. “The village land act of 1999 gives women rights to land, so why is it that so many women do not have rights to land now?” she asked.
Monica Gorman, the Country Director for Oxfam in Tanzania, explained why we are supporting the competition: “Women face many challenges. Oxfam has launched a global campaign, GROW, to overcome these and other challenges. In Tanzania we are glad to have joined up with Maisha Plus and others to run the Mama Shujaa Wa Chakula awards to recognize the contribution of women and call for more to be done to improve their situation.”
The 14 food heroes arrived in The Village, introduced by Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture. It’s clear what a variety of crops they produce and livestock they care for. Everyone of our heroes produces a wide range of food in a sustainable way, contributing to ensuring there is enough food, always.
You can follow all the action over the next two weeks at Maisha Plus TV