#GROWWeek Day 6: Female Food Hero Finale in Tanzania

During GROW Week we’ve had a lot of fantastic updates on the great work that is being done in Tanzania to support female food producers and tackle the issues around land. Below is a wrap up story from the Female Food Heroes reality TV show that the women were heavily involved in developing. This week the winner was announced….

After spending 14 days in the Maisha Plus village Sister Martha Mwasu Waziri from Dodoma in central Tanzania was crowned as the Mama Shujaa wa Chakula (Female Food Hero) 2012 in a colourful ceremony held at the village and broadcasted live to millions of Tanzanians on TBC 1. Huge cheers broke out the minute the guest of honour Hon. January Makamba mentioned her name. The finale coincided with World Food Day making the ceremony even more symbolic as recognition to women farmers’ contribution to food production and fighting poverty.

In her acceptance speech Sister Martha said, "I want to share the knowledge I gained while with Mama Shujaa wa Chakula and it is my prayer that I will turn my farm into a demonstration farm to show others what can be done." Sister Martha also wants to build a structure to use for her youth work in her rural village of Kondoa. Sister Martha, with advice from Inades Formation, has worked hard in Kondoa to amongst other things recover eroded land, turning it into productive farm land. With the increasing environmental pressures from climate change and overuse of land we will need many more heroes like Martha who can literally save our land.

The first runner up is Emiliana Aligaesha, a farmer and livestock keeper from Kagera region, said she was grateful for the recognition and plans to be a role model to other women in her community. The second runner up was Tatu Abdi Juma from Tanga region, a farmer and livestock keeper who said “After the training I received with Mama Shujaa now I have the courage to stand and speak my mind and when I go back home I will also train my fellow women in the village.”

This year’s Mama Shujaa wa Chakula competition was inaugurated on July 17, 2012 at Iyenge village, Mpwapwa where last year’s winner and the first Mama Shujaa wa Chakula Esther Jerome hails from. After this over five thousand nominations for the 2012 award were received from across the country out of which a panel of judges selected the finalists.

The winners were chosen through public voting by cell-phone text messages combined with the feedback of facilitators who had worked with the women over the past weeks in the Maisha Plus village. While in the village the 14 finalists went through training on issues from land rights and marketing to HIV and Aids. They also prepared as a group for the finale. All of this formed a reality TV programme that was aired daily on national television. During this time Sister Martha proved herself a hard worker and leader. All of the top three receive prizes of money to purchase farming equipment of their choice to further improve their food production.

Monica Gorman, Country Director, Oxfam in Tanzania who organized the Mama Shujaa wa Chakula initiative, in her speech to the event said "Today we are celebrating women heroes who feed the world. Let us give them their rights and support they deserve."

Representing partner organizations Juliana Bwire from Concern International said, "Today is World Food Day and as Concern Tanzania we say all women are heroes not only female food heroes but are our heroes in the family, community and the nation at large."

The honourable January Makamba, Deputy Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, who was the guest of honour, promised to follow up with the President on the letter that the 14 Female Food Hero finalists sent to the President of the country and to present their issues to his government. “As government we’ve got the message from this initiative; women need to be at the centre of agricultural policy and programming,” said Makamba.

After two weeks in the rudimentary village all the finalists have gone to spend a few days in a hotel in Dar es Salaam. They are also participating in a final workshop on gender issues; getting ready to return to their villages as activists for women’s rights and role models for food production.

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