A $10,000 prize "Don't Lose the Plot" inspiring youth in East Africa to pursue agribusiness entrepreneurship

Former reality show contestant Leah Wangari shows cabbages at an agricultural training farm in Limuru, near the capital Nairobi, in Kenya. An unusual new reality TV show backed by the U.S. government is the first of its kind in Africa, training young adults from Kenya and neighboring Tanzania in farming and giving them plots to cultivate, with a $10,000 prize for the most productive.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
By The Associated Press (via)

NAIROBI, Kenya — As a student, Leah Wangari imagined a glamorous life as a globe-trotting flight attendant, not toiling in dirt and manure.

Born and raised in Kenya's skyscraper-filled capital, Nairobi, the 28-year-old said farming had been the last thing on her mind. The decision to drop agriculture classes haunted her later, when her efforts in agribusiness investing while running a fashion venture failed.

Clueless, she made her way to an unusual new reality TV show, the first of its kind in Africa. "Don't Lose the Plot," backed by the U.S. government, trains contestants from Kenya and neighboring Tanzania and gives them plots to cultivate, with a $10,000 prize for the most productive. The goal: Prove to young people that agriculture can be fun and profitable.

"Being in reality TV was like the best feeling ever, like a dream come true for me," Wangari said. But she found it exhausting. As callouses built up on her hands, her friends made bets that she wouldn't succeed.

"Don't Lose the Plot" is aimed at inspiring youth in East Africa to pursue agribusiness entrepreneurship. Producers said the show wants to demystify the barriers to starting a small business and challenge the prejudices against farming-related careers, even as many youths flee rural areas for urban ones.

"What we hope to achieve ... is first to show people that you can make money out of farming, to change the age profile of farmers in Africa from 60 to the youth. And the next thing we want to do is to show farmers, young farmers, that they can use their mobile and technology in order to farm and achieve their goals," producer Patricia Gichinga said. The show also offers training via online platforms and text message.

Attracting people to agriculture is no small challenge in Africa, where a booming young population is often put off by the image of punishing work and poor, weather-beaten farmers.

Africa has over 60 percent of the world's fertile but uncultivated land while importing $35 billion to $50 billion in food per year, the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa says . Weak or corrupt land governance is a challenge, as well as conflict.

Yields for major crops remain low compared to other regions of the world. Change must come by empowering the smallholder farmers who produce 80 percent of the food consumed on the continent, the organization says.

Now Wangari is one of them. After placing second in "Don't Lose the Plot," she became a full-time mushroom farmer.

In a damp structure of mud and clay on the outskirts of Nairobi, she has harvested her first crop and is preparing for her second. She had expected to make a $2,500 profit but took in $1,000 instead after mites from a nearby chicken house invaded and lowered her yield.

The Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme

African Leadership University (ALU) is proud to partner with the Gra├ža Machel Trust and the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) to launch the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, a landmark scholarship that will celebrate the 100th birthday of one of the greatest African leaders of the last century – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, fondly known as Madiba.

President Mandela firmly believed in the transformative power of education and its ability to bring dignity, self-actualization, and prosperity to Africans. Throughout his presidency and after, he dedicated much of his efforts to ensure that children from all walks of life had equal access to education, regardless of their economic background. The objective of the Mandela Centennial Scholars Programme is to honor President Mandela’s legacy and carry forward the important work he began in education by identifying 100 outstanding young Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend ALU. These students will benefit from a scholarship and unparalleled opportunities for leadership development.

More info / Apply at https://mcs.alueducation.com