Can mushrooms solve world hunger?


She's an activist, farming campaigner and educator, yet the catalyst for Chido Govera may surprise you - it was mushrooms.

Growing up in rural Zimbabwe, Chido was left an orphan at the age of eight when her mother passed away from AIDS.

Left to find a way to care for her younger brother and nearly 100-year-old grandmother, she was abused, beaten and nearly became a child bride.

Now she's a farming activist travelling the world helping people out of poverty and the key - the thing that changed her life - was mushrooms.

"At the age of 11, something wonderful happened," she says.

"I got an invitation to learn to farm mushrooms and this was an invitation from what is called the Zeri Foundation.

"I went, I remember I was barefoot, my clothes in a plastic bag, and for the first time I could grow my own mushrooms, cook them and have a plate full of mushrooms all to myself."

It was a simple concept, but one that changed not Chido's life but then the lives of the villagers around her.

"You take a lot of waste material, soak it in water, mix it with mushroom seed. You don't have to dig forever anymore.

"When I had enough money left that I could pay school fees for other kids, I said this is going to change my life and I want use it to change other peoples lives.

" .... food creates opportunities."

"I set out to teach as many people as possible to grow mushrooms, sell them and earn income."

Chido's group mentality and passion to help others succeed saw the women in her village making a new way for themselves - a way where they could be more than brides or wives.

"In this community where everybody puts food on the table by digging in the garden or working in the field, suddenly there's a bunch of girls who are growing food indoors," she says.

"The 15 of us became the most popular people in the village for the first time.

"It just went like wildfire ... food creates opportunities."  

Chido Govera was in Australia speaking as part of the Mad Sydney event.