Leaning In: Empowering Farmers through Grassroots Screenings of “Fertile Deception”

Thellesi Trust is proud to report a successful partnership with Africa Uncensored in the grassroots screening of “Fertile Deception,” an eye-opening documentary exposing the scandal of counterfeit fertiliser in Kenya. In two days, we showed the entire two-part documentary to more than 100 farmers in two agricultural villages in Kilifi County. Besides the screenings, we also trained them on how to spot counterfeit fertilisers.

Whereas the documentary gained national attention, farmers on the ground who had been affected most by the counterfeit products did not watch it. These farmers, many of whom rely on fertiliser to boost their yields, were unaware that what they were buying was, in fact, ordinary sand sold at inflated prices!

Consequently, they recorded low yields and incredible losses, affecting their livelihoods – especially those people living in rural areas. What’s more, the fake fertiliser scandal contributes to food insecurity and further exacerbates the Country’s reliance on food imports, negatively affecting GDP. The government’s response has been worrying and confusing – from distancing itself from the issues, blame games and a general lack of serious concern.

To engage community members, we mobilised through chiefs and local influencers. Additionally, we worked with a local facilitator to run the screening sessions. Our goal was not only to show the documentary but also to foster conversations with the farmers about their fertiliser usage habits, how they determine if fertiliser is genuine, whether they had encountered the fake fertiliser, and their feedback on the documentary’s content.

Bridging The Gap Between National and Local

The grassroots screenings were important in that they bridged the information gap between urban centres, where news and media consumption are higher, and rural areas, where access is limited. Television sets, internet and Youtube are still not common features in rural areas, meaning that watching the documentary is already out of the picture.

One might conceive an idea to make an audio documentary and play it in community radios since the majority of people have access to radios, but that would not work because documentaries show more than they tell. Especially investigative ones.

To ensure that it resonated, it was translated into Swahili, the most widely spoken language at the coast. It would have further been translated into Giriama, but that was not possible because of time constraints. We were targeting to play it during the planting window, right when the farmers were readying themselves to buy fertiliser. We then played it on a massive 3 metres by 2 meters screen, with explosive sound – a spectacle that attracted and maintained attention.

Leaning In

Leaving no one behind involves leaning in. It means going out of our way to make sure that information that affects people reaches them in the way that makes sense to them. In this case, it is that Africa Uncensored realised the conversation happening online was at the exclusion of the real farmers on the ground who had bought the products, therefore designing ways to take the conversation to them.

Awareness is the first step toward action. Informing the farmers about the fraudulent fertiliser scheme empowered them with the knowledge needed to recognize and report counterfeit products. Additionally, showing them practical ways to determine the genuineness of products at the agrovets and at home ensures they can now protect themselves from scams, thereby safeguarding their livelihoods and food security.

Promoting Transparency and Accountability

The screenings also played a crucial role in promoting transparency and accountability. When communities are informed, they can demand better practices and accountability from suppliers and authorities. 

‘How could this happen under the nose of our MPs and our MCAs?” a farmer in Garashi village questioned. ‘If any of us here buys faker fertiliser from an agrovet they should tell us so that we avoid it and have it closed down’, urged another.  The farmers’ awareness can lead to systemic changes in the agricultural supply chain, reducing corruption and enhancing the overall integrity of agricultural inputs in the market.

Announcing Story Za Jaba

Highlighting the Role of Media in Social Change

Our partnership with Africa Uncensored highlights the significant role that media plays in driving social change. Not only did the documentary create awareness, but it also mobilised communities to take action against the scam.

The gatherings provided a platform for the farmers to share their experiences, discuss the documentary’s findings, and collectively brainstorm solutions. This collaborative spirit strengthens community networks, making them more resilient and better prepared to address future challenges together.

When media outputs are customised for the different target audiences, they shift perceptions and attitudes towards issues and encourage action. 
We are truly grateful to Africa Uncensored for conjuring up this idea. It demonstrates their commitment to empowering citizens by providing them with the information necessary to demand justice and accountability.

As Thellesi Trust, we continue to seek ways to create platforms that engage rural communities so that they also actively participate in conversations affecting their lives. Creating platforms that engage to us means (1), creating ways for rural communities to express their experiences, thoughts and ideas originally, without altering, and (2), exploring means of bringing information down to the grassroots.

By ensuring that marginalised communities are informed and engaged, we contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society, where every individual has the knowledge and power to advocate for their rights and drive sustainable development.

Thellesi Trust
Thellesi Trust

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