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#IamAg! Meet Judy, Production Manager at Shamba Shape Up

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This is the first post in our new series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture. Today’s post comes from Judy Nyawira, who is the production manager for the Kenyan TV show “Shamba Shape Up”.

Ever since I was a young girl, I always dreamed of being on television. That was considered the most prestigious job you could get. I admired how perfectly polished news presenters like Catherine Kasavuli articulated the day’s headlines, and how her confidence and elegance shone through her body language. At high school, I developed a special interest in languages and world history, in the hope of becoming a news caster myself one day. Little did I know about the wide array of opportunities that existed beyond being a news anchor. I ended up at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication where I initially set out to study broadcast journalism, but then found myself in film and TV production. Even though I did not intend to do this course, it turned out in my favour because I couldn’t be happier working on Shamba Shape Up as a production manager.

I never imagined myself in agriculture, not even remotely. When I joined Mediae, I began working as an assistant on a drama show. Shamba Shape Up was launched, and I was asked to come on board. I was intrigued by it, since the style of the program was being pioneered in Kenya. It was never an interest in agriculture that led me to work on the program, but looking back, I’ve become so passionate about agriculture. My mother and I now have three cows, several pigs and we’re thinking of starting a poultry business. I’ve taken advantage of the knowledge I have gathered so much so that when my mother calls to ask for farming advice, I actually have an answer for her. My perception of the sector has entirely changed. I still can’t believe I’m the same person who thinks about cows and selling milk to make money. I never thought this would be me.

As a production manager, I sit down with the producer to plan the agriculture-related content of the episodes which our partner organisations provide us with. We then draw up a feasible filming schedule and once it’s finalised, I’m tasked with liaising with their experts that will appear on the program. The director and I, then travel across the country to scout for farms. Whilst we’re filming, my main duty is to ensure that the experts and the presenters are providing accurate farming advice and tips to the farmer. In essence, I coordinate the filming, manage the film crew and handle all logistics. People often see the end product of the show, and don’t quite realise the amount of time and resources behind it. I spend hours on the road and weeks on end away from my family. But despite the fatigue, the one thing I love most and that keeps me going is when we are on location and people approach us to commend the work we do. So realising that my work actually makes an impact in someone’s life makes it all worth it. It’s more than just entertainment that you’re producing. You’re actually shaping people’s mind-sets and knowledge about agriculture, and I believe that is priceless!

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The problem with my generation is that, growing up we were taught by our parents and our teachers that we needed to go to school to become a doctor or a lawyer, but never a farmer. Agriculture was considered as a last resort, for those who couldn’t attain meaningful employment and had to go back to the rural area to farm. I believe the major issue we face is changing the perception of the sector. We need to make it attractive to youth as a viable career route, not only for the uneducated or impoverished. That they can actually make a decent living off it, and in order to encourage the uptake, I believe we need to promote agribusiness. Given the proliferation of new technologies and social media, young people should tap into this and use the platforms as a market place.

My work is very exciting and enjoyable, but you need to be someone who is well organized and can manage effectively. You also need to be very open minded to the fact that you’re dealing with an array of people from varying cultures in distant lands and from different walks of life so you need to be accommodating of that. The best aspect of my job is that you’re not simply passing information to your viewers or the farmers that you visit, but you gain knowledge in return from the agricultural experts Shamba Shape Up works with. Through my position, I’m not just earning a living, but I’m also progressing. My mind is being opened up to all the different ventures that you can undertake in agriculture that don’t necessarily entail you ploughing fields each day. As such, I’m both learner and a teacher, a conduit of knowledge of sorts.

Are you a young professional in agriculture with a story to share? Tweet us using #IamAg to join our campaign to inspire more young people to get involved in agricultural careers.