development equality food

Celebrating Tanzania’s food heroes

In Britain, millions of people tuned in to the X Factor last year, or followed along with the Great British Bake Off. Meanwhile, over in Tanzania, people were turning on their TVs to catch Mama Shujaa wa Chakula. It’s a TV talent contest that celebrates women farmers, and pits 16 contestants against each other in challenges involving cooking, planting trees and making tools.

In the rural parts of Tanzania, many women have small plots to grow food for their families. They are a vital part of the food system, and easily taken for granted. So Oxfam hatched the idea of creating a TV show that would celebrate their contribution and raise the status of women farmers. It doesn’t translate particularly well, but Mama Shujaa wa Chakula is a warrior or hero mama, a ‘female food hero’.

The show makes women farmers into role models, and inspires other women to demand more recognition, both from their household and their community. It’s also full of farming tips, and a good way to learn new techniques. The show empowers women, builds food security, and still manages to be entertaining. The last series drew 20 million viewers, which is almost as many as the Bake Off and X Factor combined. Here’s a little taste:


  1. When in Dar , it was so often the ‘mamas’ ‘ with babies shawled tied on their backs , out in their shambas with Jembi turning warm Earth , clearing , breaking soil to receive seed . Opening a furrow and tenderly caring for the seedlings that would grow into chakula . I did it too though as a msungu in that heat it was a more rigorous exercise . Bless them : as St Paul says : if you want to eat then work ! The mama’s I knew worked long and hard .

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