As a student, Leah Wangari imagined a glamorous life as a globe-trotting flight attendant, not toiling in dirt and manure.
Born and raised in Kenya’s skyscraper-filled capital, Nairobi, the 28-year-old said farming had been the last thing on her mind. The decision to drop agriculture classes haunted her later, when her efforts in agribusiness investing while running a fashion venture failed.
Clueless, she made her way to an unusual new reality TV show, the first of its kind in Africa. “Don’t Lose the Plot,” backed by the U.S. government, trains contestants from Kenya and neighboring Tanzania and gives them plots to cultivate, with a $10,000 prize for the most productive. The goal: Prove to young people that agriculture can be fun and profitable.
“Being in reality TV was like the best feeling ever, like a dream come true for me,” Wangari said. But she found it exhausting. As callouses built up on her hands, her friends made bets that she wouldn’t succeed.
“Don’t Lose the Plot” is aimed at inspiring youth in East Africa to pursue agribusiness entrepreneurship. Producers said the show wants to demystify the barriers to starting a small business and challenge the prejudices against farming-related careers, even as many youths flee rural areas for urban ones.