Meet Bahati, the 2014 lucky winner of Mama Shujaa wa Chakula Award

Sunday June 1 2014

By Devotha John

It is widely believed in Africa that a person’s name determines their destiny. And this seems to be true for Bahati Muriga, 40, a resident of Ukerewe in Mwanza whose name Bahati, means good luck in Swahili.

The mother of three recently scooped the 2014 Female Food Hero Award (Mama Shujaa wa Chakula) and went home with Sh 30 million in total.

Bahati, who believes that every opportunity that comes in life gives one a chance to win, beat 19 other contestants in the highly contested Mama Shujaa wa Chakula reality competition TV show. She won the Sh 25 million prize offered by the organisers of the competition, Oxfam, definitely saying goodbye to poverty.

The lucky woman who is a teacher by profession also received an extra Sh 5 million from the Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development minister, Prof Anna Tibaijuka.

“Women should look for opportunities like this and make good use of them,” says Bahati.

Her winning journey started when she and two other members from her KIMIDEO women’s Village Community Bank (Vicoba) group decided to give the competition a try. The three women from KIMIDEO collected forms to enter the race but only Bahati filled and returned her forms before the deadline.


How it all started

“As a smallholder farmer, I met almost all the requirements for the competition. I own four acres of land on which I grow maize and sugarcane. With these, I qualified for the competition,” says Bahati.

Mama Shujaa wa Chakula which this time ran alongside a similar competition, Maisha Plus, is aimed at supporting women peasants to transform their farming activities into large operations and is supported by Oxfam Tanzania.

It was in January this year after the KIMIDEO Vicoba meeting when one of the group’s members, Pauline Makubi informed her colleagues that there was a competition that suited them. She told them that the joining forms could be obtained from Oxfam offices for those interested. The competition targeted only women small-scale farmers.

After Bahati and her colleagues collected the forms from Oxfam, Bahati who was determined to bring home the prize money returned the forms just after two days.

The entry requirements were for one to be either a small-holder farmer, a livestock keeper or both, qualifications that Bahati met.

One month after returning the forms, two officers from Oxfam went to interview Bahati at home. They wanted to prove if she qualified for the competition.

“While on my farm, they took photos of me on the farm. The photos were to be used for attracting votes,” says Bahati.

“I was told that it was only voters’ support that would enable me get into the competition. Adverts were made to ask people to vote for me,” she adds.

Entering the race

It was during the Easter week that she received the call telling her she was supposed to go to Dar es Salaam for the competition.

“I was very excited and I told my family who gave me all their blessings. I arrived in Dar es Salaam at night and was taken to a hotel where I spent the night.”

The following day, Bahati met other contestants who came from different regions and neighbouring countries. We greeted each other and started our journey to Bagamoyo in the evening.

In Bagamoyo, the contestants had a small party with the youth who were competing in Maisha Plus.

“We were given the rules of the game as well as a list of names to choose from. The people we chose were to become our sons and daughters in the reality TV programme. We were to live as mother and child,” she says.

“My choice went to a boy called Boniphace Nyakena who became my son. He coincidentally emerged the winner of Maisha Plus.”

In the village, the contestants were required to live a normal life. They had to develop a project idea from which they could earn a living while in the village. The project could be developed from the Sh 45, 000 given a week to every mother and her child. The amount was shared by both, with the mother taking Sh 30,000 and the child Sh 15,000.

“The essence of this was to teach children how to budget. My son and I built a grass-thatched hut for raising chicken. This was our first project,” Bahati says.

Their second project was making hand hoes for sale, a project that was relevant since the reality TV village community engaged mainly in farming. The hoes were therefore in high demand.

The challenges

In the Mama Shujaa wa Chakula village, the villagers were sleeping on traditional beds, the doors to their huts remained open even during the night and the toilets were not good enough to give the users the required privacy.

Also, the competition participants had to work hard to keep their projects running.

Bahati advises women to work hard in whatever they do. She says women should not just sit idle and wait for their husbands to put food on the table. Bahati is inspired by women in this country who have made it despite having come from humble beginnings.

She calls upon the government to empower small-scale farmers, especially women who make up the majority of the farmers and who are the main food producers. These women have remained unsupported both by the policies and laws.

“Small-scale farmers play a key role not only in their own families but also the nation at large,” says Bahati.

And how does Bahati plan to use the money? Expand her farm in support of the country’s Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture first) policy to revolutionalise the agricultural sector.

As the head teacher of Mhozya Primary School in Ukerewe island, Bahati, does her teaching job during the week days and spends the whole of Saturday working on her farm.

The trend continues.