A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Bahati Muriga is the new Female Food Hero in Tanzania. She won the first prize of the 4th edition of a national reality TV style competition which raises awareness in Tanzania of the many incredible achievements of its women food producers.
A jury composed of TV viewers, Oxfam staff, consultants and civil society partners chose the 39 year old widow and mother of three after 19 Female Food Heroes spent three weeks in the Maisha Plus reality television program.
Over this period they had to display their knowledge of good agricultural practices, climate change adaptation and the issues surrounding gender based violence. They had the chance to meet women from across Tanzania and to learn from one another the different skill sets that each brought.
During the competition we got to know Bahati, and talked to her about her life, vision, and hopes for the future. She explained her ideas of how supporting women in farming can improve everyone’s lives.
Farming is key to helping herself and others
As well as being a farmer Bahati is a headmistress. Her husband passed when she was six months pregnant. It was this that pushed her further into farming, as the salary that she gets from her role at the school cannot sustain her household needs; farming has become her main support mechanism.
“It has been easy to meet my household needs with the income from farming.”
She has been able to take her oldest son up to secondary school, to pay for clothing, medical care and all her children’s needs through the additional income farming brings in. She tells of looking forward to being able to own some land and to build a bigger house for herself and children. At the moment all the land that she farms is rented.
Bahati has joined a number of women’s groups that support each other and their entrepreneurship initiatives. She sees herself as an empowered woman who is not afraid to take chances and urges other women to take the available opportunities within agriculture for their own development.
Determination to succeed
When it comes to gender issues within the community, she reflects on the status of married women whom she states are less likely to have a voice and decision making power. This adds to the challenge of these women not being able to have an income, power over generated resources and the perception that they are non contributors. She would like to see women investing in educating themselves and so help themselves improve their yields, understand issues and policies that affect them (such as climate change).
She sees government support for women small scale farmers and access to loans as well as other farming inputs as an important way to help women develop and succeed further in their endeavours. Loans without high interest rates could support women’s agricultural initiatives, increasing their quantity and quality of produce. Through this, women will be able to be free from violence and abuse, to support themselves and not be dependants to their husbands.
For the youth Bahati urges them to take the chances and opportunities given to them and to enter into agriculture.
What stands out about Bahati is her determination to succeed and her conviction that women and small holder farmers are the key. She also has a beautiful smile and personality!
An inspiration for their communities
The finale was a colorful event with dancing and joy! Bahati Muriga won farming implements worth 20 Million Tanzanian Shillings ($11,880 US Dollars) plus an additional 5 Million TZS (2,970 USD) cash prize from Hon. Prof. Anna Tibaijuka, Minister of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements.
All the Female Food Heroes 2014 feel like heroes and they are happy to be recognized as such! They wear the name with pride and they all applaud the concept of the Maisha Plus Mama Shujaa competition. The heroes themselves were particularly fond of the various training sessions conducted during their time in the village and the many high profile visitors that made it out to see them.
The contestants have vowed to take what they have gained back to their community and, using the title each of them has earned, be an example and inspiration for members of their communities.