Last week I turned on the TV, looking to escape for an hour or so. I quickly learned that summer is the season of reality TV and after three minutes of watching Big Brother the TV quickly went off. While I certainly have my fair share of embarrassing guilty pleasures when it comes to TV, I’ve never caught the reality TV bug and am happy for it.
But there’s a new reality show out of Mali that unlike Big Brother or The Bachelor, may actually do something good for society. The reality radio show, FarmQuest, follows eight contestants as they cultivate a small plot of land. Contestants receive advice from older farmers and business leaders, are forced to make tough decisions about what and when to plant, and they have to negotiate with customers. The best two plots win.
All the drama with none of the smut... I could get into this.
The show seeks to serve an important social purpose. Agriculture is a critical key to Africa’s development prospects, already accounting for 40 percent of GDP output. The industry is at risk however. Like in many other parts of the world, young people are increasingly seeking jobs in cities, and with that, the average age of farmers has climbed to 60. There is a very real chance that Africa won’t meet its agricultural potential if young people can’t be convinced to farm.
According to the show’s producers, they want to prove to young people, “that farming as a business can provide a good—and exciting—livelihood.”
Leaders in the development industry are excited about the show’s potential as well. The Rockefeller Foundation recently organized a contest to find the best ideas to bring young people back to the land. FarmQuest was one of three winning initiatives from the contest, earning them $100,000 to invest into the project.
Now what are the odds that some of this do-good will wipe off on Big Brother?