I was 11 years old when I discovered something that would change my entire life. That something was mushrooms.
Orphaned at 7 and having had no background in science, I’d become a mushroom farmer. I could go beyond just putting food on my plate; I could send my brother and other orphans in my community to school by farming and selling edible mushrooms.
Turning waste into food
Like many other village girl orphans, before the mushrooms I’d struggled to survive. I had limited resources, many responsibilities and no exposure to any initiatives whatsoever.
I’d been invited to receive training in mushroom cultivation supported by the Belgian environmental entrepreneur Gunter Pauli, and by 12 I was learning to grow mushrooms from different agricultural waste materials in a laboratory at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
I was committed to simplifying the art and science of the process so that even people living in what are considered to be the poorest villages could afford cultivated mushrooms at their tables. From here onwards I continued to hone my skills, and I adjusted the mushroom production units into very basic structures to match those found in a common African village so they could be built from local materials and by pretty much anybody.
The future of hope
At 20, I started travelling around the world teaching mushroom cultivation. I taught groups of women and girls in Colombia, South Africa, Tanzania, Congo, Cameroon and of course in Zimbabwe. Over the years my work has reached schools and communities in India, aboriginals in Australia, and entrepreneurs in the US and around Europe.
My work with mushrooms has evolved to go beyond securing food and an income: I’m on a mission to create a hopeful future for women and girls and the societies in which they live. I created The Future of Hope Foundation thanks to the support of family and friends and the Rotary Club of Keerbergen. The foundation seeks to empower vulnerable women and girls through practical life skills training and the implementation of sustainable and environmentally friendly mushroom cultivation techniques.
What’s more, the foundation empowers women and girls beyond mere survival. With the relief that comes with being able to take care of their own basic needs, they’ll be able to actively engage in socioeconomic development and become change agents for a better society.