Hope sometimes seems to be in short supply in Zimbabwe, but hope is a powerful tool that can assist us to achieve our dreams and help others around us.
Orphaned at the age of 7 and taking care of her aging grandmother and younger brother, Chido Govera dropped out of school aged 9. Hope for a better future seemed impossible. Then at the age of 11 Chido was selected from a group of young girls to participate in a mushroom growing project, supported by the Belgian ecological entrepreneur Gunter Pauli (renowned author of The Blue Economy and founder of ZERI —Zero Emissions Research and Innovations).
The group was given bags of waste mixed with mushroom spores and they learned about how to manage a mushroom house. Soon the group was producing enough mushrooms to supplement their diets and with enough left over to sell. Chido was able to support her grandmother and brother and at last a glimmer of hope appeared.
From the age of 12 to 16 Chido was able to study the art and science of mushroom cultivation in a university laboratory and within a short time she was sharing her skills and her knowledge with other communities of women and orphans.
Chido means ‘Passion’ in Shona, a fitting name for Chido Govera who is incredibly passionate about her work helping to empower communities across Zimbabwe and in other African countries. Working tirelessly Chido set up The Future of Hope Foundation Trust (TFoFT) which was registered as a trust in 2013 and as a P.V.O. (Private Voluntary Organisation) in November last year.
Future of Hope is based on a smallholding in Christon Bank, just outside Harare. Here, groups of young girls and women receive training in mushroom production as well as learning about growing other vegetables and herbs and keeping chickens, rabbits and goats.
It’s an environmentally friendly and sustainable system whereby the mushroom waste is used to improve the soil for growing vegetables, mushrooms are fed to the chickens and the animal waste is used as organic fertiliser.
Women and girls enjoy a two week residency learning about the value of growing mushrooms, as well learning about packing and processing the mushrooms. Participants in the training course return to their communities to set up mushroom projects locally, helping to empower women at a grassroots level.
Recent activities include a month long ‘train the trainers’ course held in October last year. 25 orphans and women took part and were able to go back home to set up new projects.
From the 25 participants 10 have been selected to work fulltime at the centre to boost mushroom production. Other projects include a two week course that ran in February and another course is scheduled for March. Rotary has kindly provided a grant to help support these training sessions.
Mushrooms grown by Future of Hope have been available at Pick n Pay supermarkets across the country since around the middle of 2016, as well as at Pistachio in Borrowdale and Brookefields in Chisipite.
There has been a good response from the public and the demand for mushrooms is high. There are grey, white and yellow oyster mushrooms and new products in development include mushroom infused oils, dried mushrooms (largely for export) and mushroom pickles.
Annah Masakwa is a young orphan girl who has participated in the mushroom cultivation training programme and is now studying at Harare Polytechnic.
She says, “I was trained by The Future of Hope Trust to grow mushrooms. My experience with them was wonderful. They gave us all the requirements for growing mushrooms and they continually checked up to make sure we were doing well. Miss Chido Govera motivated me to always work hard and I am now going to college because of mushrooms.”