Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spawning Mushrooms and Leadership

This is a recent Success Story I wrote about my women's group mushroom project. A write up is on of the steps required to close out a PC grant.

Not much more than one year ago twenty-five women in the small village of Mshewe
came together to form an organization named Zinduka Women’s Group. Expectations of this group were greater than those of other village organizations. The members of Zinduka wanted to work together to improve the food security of Mshewe; provide an outlet for the energy and leadership capabilities of the village women; and create a bond of trust and respect among its members.

Members meet every Tuesday wrapped in matching floral kitenge and blue polo shirts with their group’s name emblazoned on the pocket. This sight shows immediately the sisterhood and camaraderie already shared. Together the women have explored various alternative crops adding to the staples of corn and beans. They found particular interest in producing a small trial of mushrooms.

Seeking help from the village Peace Corps Volunteer, the women began a whole new venture of mushroom farming. With funding support from USAID’s Small Project Assistance grant, the group worked with their PCV to strategically plan and budget the building of a humidity controlled banda. The application of water to the banda’s roof adds moisture to the air inside which assists in the mushroom growth. The funding also provided the group with quality tools needed for mushroom farming.

“I am truly impressed by the dedication shown by the women,” PCV Jessica Byassee states. “I feel using a SPA grant to help improve a project already in existence was an important aspect to our success. The group members had the interest and experience needed to drive this project. Now with the banda and tools needed to grow mushrooms, their crop yield can be more profitable.”

Due to the participation and level of interest shown by the whole membership, sustainability is highly possible. The women want to maintain the banda and their new skills learned for growing mushrooms. They are already thinking of ways to use their profits to improve the banda. Members are excited to sell the mushrooms at the local and regional markets and increase the food available for villagers to purchase.

Women's empowerment was also an important result to this project. The support shown by local and district officials proves the respect this group has gained. As the whole village was aware of group's project, men were impressed by what the women were creating while the women gained confidence in working with men and higher officials. The future possibilities are endless.

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