The rapid spread of television (TV) channels offers a unique opportunity to disseminate knowledge via private and public information systems to millions of farmers within a short period of time. When agricultural themes and messages are woven into entertaining shows that use popular actors, comedians, and cartoon characters, information reaches out to a much wider audience who might not necessarily be interested in agriculture. Youths are becoming more interested in agriculture through watching reality TV shows that follow the lives of young food producers and stories of farmer ‘superheroes’, making these topics entertaining and at the same time educational, hence the term ‘edutainment’. Edutainment via TV is reaching a widespread audience in the comfort of their homes, creating a passion for farming, and delivering information on vital new technologies to farmers. Edutainment TV shows are aired in several countries (Table 1). All these examples except Farmers Love Safety are produced by private sector players.
Table 1. Examples of edutainment TV programmes
About the show
Chronicles youth who are trying their hand at the family business
Involves visits to small-scale farmers with experts or other farmers to advise them on how to improve agricultural productivity on their farms – presented by popular Kenyan actors
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda
Disseminates information on new agricultural technology – production, marketing, and value-addition – to current and potential farmers within and outside the country
Promotes the importance of food safety and sustainable farming – the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle has created an original entertainment show that both presents a message and earns income from advertisements placed by other companies
Promotes sustainable growth in agricultural production and improved rice value chains to provide farmers with better knowledge on production inputs and access to markets
Covers all aspects of agriculture, its problems, possibilities, and ways of improving farmers’ livelihoods
Philosophy and principles
Edutainment TV refers to entertaining TV programmes intended primarily for educational purposes. Edutainment TV in agriculture seeks to impact on people’s knowledge and attitudes to help them make informed choices about their agricultural practices; shift norms and attitudes; change farming behaviours; stimulate public discussion and debate about improved practices; link people to services to obtain help and support; impact on the social and political environment; influence and effect policy change; and stimulate social action on particular issues. TV provides a visual aid: by showing improved agricultural practices in familiar settings, the uptake of information is enhanced.
Key principles of successful edutainment TV are as follows.
- Title of the show: must be eye-catching. Audience choices are often based on programme guides that include just the title of the programme, the theme or title of the episode, and at most a very short description.
- Content: should be a good balance of education and entertainment. The show should be appealing and engage the target audience. It must have new and exciting ideas. It should also be accurate, precise, and culturally acceptable.
- Topics: the message should be integrated with the challenges of farming as well as other non-farm issues relevant to the audience. For example, Shamba Shape Up integrates the use of solar for lighting with information on improved agricultural practices.
- Duration: keep it short and simple (KISS) to sustain viewers’ interest.
- Delivery: the message should be presented in a simple, entertaining way that appeals and connects with the audience. Use humour. Use popular characters to deliver the message – people love celebrities and are receptive to listening to them.
- Audience: know the target audience and their needs. The show must resonate with people’s lives and situations. First Time Farmers in the United Kingdom targets young people, and incorporates hard work with things that youth enjoy.
- Scheduling: the show should be aired at a time when the target audience watches TV.
- Durability: an ongoing series of shows must be able to sustain viewers’ interest across multiple episodes.
- Promotion: rigorous awareness-raising campaigns should be conducted in advance to capture the audience and increase viewership. The promotion of a TV programme should be well planned – first impressions are decisive when people decide if they will watch the show.
- Sustainability: a business model should be adopted where companies buy time to advertise their products, to ensure the show’s sustainability.
- Interactivity: the show should be combined with other communication technologies to facilitate uptake of the practices it is promoting. For example, it can encourage viewers to send text messages requesting more information using their mobile phones. Incorporating a call centre is also helpful, so that farmers can call in to ask questions. These technologies can also serve as a feedback mechanism for determining viewers’ perceptions both of the show and of the agricultural practices it is promoting.
Box 1: Shamba Share Up
In Kenya, the Shamba Shape Up reality TV show airs every weekend on a popular local channel. Shamba means ‘farm’ in Swahili, and the show is best thought of as ‘Extreme makeover: farm edition’. The show guides small-scale farmers on how to improve agricultural productivity on their farms. Presented by popular Kenyan actors, it is engaging, entertaining, and yet informative. The Shamba Shape Up team, which visits a different farm in a different area of the country each week, includes the actors, a film crew, and a number of experts from partner organisations who specialise in the topics covered in the episode. The show has become very popular, attracting 11 million viewers around East Africa. During each episode, viewers are given a short code that they can text to the programme makers to ask questions and/or to request a free printed pamphlet on the week’s topics.
The following key steps should be taken into account to ensure the success of an edutainment TV show. During implementation, it is important that the key principles of good edutainment are followed.
1. Research and planning
- Choose the topic, conduct research on it, identify the target audience, and decide on the scale of the project
- Develop a budget and schedule
- Define the format of the TV production
- Raise funds for development, production, implementation, and evaluation
- Develop the message and storyline
- Scout for people and material for filming
- Develop educational packages
3. Production and postproduction
- Film the content
- Edit the episodes (sound, colour, graphics, etc.)
4. Validation/feedback on postproduction
5. Broadcasting Promote the show through various means, such as Facebook and TV advertisements
6. Air the show
Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring is the continuous routine tracking of program activities. Evaluation involves an assessment of the extent to which a program has achieved its intended objectives and how it could be improved. There are four main reasons for undertaking an evaluation.
- To gauge the impact your shows haveon your audience.
- To understand the strengths and weaknesses of the show, and the promoted agricultural practices, in order to improve next time.
- To enable your current and potential funders to see the value of your work.
- For accountability towards the audience and funders
Monitoring and evaluation can be undertaken using quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative methods include surveys; while qualitative methods may include focus group discussions and in-depth interviews.
Creating a successful edutainment TV show requires a dynamic media team that is able to harness the required resources and capacities – directing, researching, production, scriptwriting, and editing. It is important that scriptwriters have an understanding of agriculture and familiarity with the target audience (e.g. smallholder farmers), including their resource constraints and needs. Other capacities required are in campaigning, publicity, fundraising/resource mobilisation, and partnership building.
Figure 1. Capacities required to develop a successful edutainment TV show
Costs will vary depending on the scale of the project and services provided, but generally include equipment and procurement of licences; staffing; research, development, filming, and broadcasting; promotion; maintenance of equipment; and monitoring and evaluation.
Costs of producing a show are relatively high in terms of absolute cost, but low in terms of cost per household reached. For example, engaging Shamba Shape Up to film five six-minute segments costs US$50,000, with an audience of 3.5 million households – only US$0.014 per household.
Strengths and weaknesses
The major strengths and weaknesses of edutainment TV programmes for agricultural information are shown in Table 2.
Table 2. Strengths and weaknesses
The approach is appropriate for a wide range of people, including women and youth, and people in urban areas who are rarely in contact with extension services. For example, Shamba Shape Up reaches more women than men (66% female to 34% male). This is important as women are generally excluded from traditional training and workshops. Women are able to view the TV shows directly, which reduces problems associated with inaccurate transfer of knowledge. It allows them to make informed decisions to adopt practices based on the information they receive from the show. It is also particularly useful for attracting the youth to view agriculture as an enterprise worth venturing into.
It is not, however, appropriate for poor farmers who lack access to TV, or for those who may not understand the language in which the shows are broadcast. One solution is to record shows on DVD or flash drive and show them on projectors in rural areas, to reach viewers with no access to TV. They can also be translated into local languages if funding is available.
Edutainment TV shows can also be integrated with mobile phones and call centres to make them more interactive. Introducing competitions within a show can make it more attractive. A good example is Farmers Love Safety in Thailand, which features two opposing teams of farmers who compete over which group can produce the highest yields and the best quality harvest. Shows can also be uploaded on YouTube and packaged as DVDs for later use.
Edutainment TV showing agricultural innovations can be implemented by a wide range of actors including the private sector, government, NGOs, and other development practitioners with an interest in educating viewers about improved farming techniques. In edutainment TV, the company or organisation producing the show has overall ownership rights to the show. But to safeguard the show’s credibility, it is important to involve relevant experts to ensure high-quality content. Thus strong and diversified partnerships are essential with research organisations, government departments, universities, and NGOs for capacity building and technical guidance, and with institutions that can offer financial support. The entity managing the show has to ensure all partners’ needs are met and everyone has an equal amount to gain from the partnership.
Evidence of impacts, sustainability, and scalability
Financial sustainability is a major issue in edutainment. Initial establishment costs do need to be externally funded, but at later stages a profit-oriented business model may be developed by having agencies and service providers buy airtime and advertise their products. Farmed and Dangerous earns revenue from advertisements during the show. An effective business model will be scalable, sustainable, and based on clients’ needs – not necessarily true of services offered by donors free of cost. Shamba Shape Up currently earns about half its revenue from organisations funded by donor agencies promoting agricultural practices, and half from commercial companies that gain exposure by demonstrating their products and practices.
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This paper was produced by the World Agroforestry Centre and Shamba Shape Up with financial support provided by the agencies with the logos below.
This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). This publication has not gone through IFPRI’s standard peer-review procedure. The opinions expressed here belong to the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of IFPRI.