Mushroom Project Will Relieve Orphans from AIDS Devastation

Dec 21, 2002 12:12 PM EST

Margaret Tagwira, an African lab technician in Africa University, is cloning mushrooms as a way to help children who lead the household to grow their own source of food since the HIV/AIDS devastation is forcing orphans to take care of their younger siblings. The Mushroom Project will provide the children means of making money.

10 years ago, Tagwira entered the United Methodist school and sought challenge by studying mushrooms in the faculty of agriculture where the natural resources are limited. In the process, Tagwira discovered that mushroom could be served as both food source and moneymaker for the needy. After the discovery, Tagwira trained 15 female orphans to work with the mushrooms.

"By learning, the girls have transformed their lives," Tagwira says. "It is a blessing to me to see the transformation and their empowerment. These girls did not go to high school because they had no one to pay their fees."

Tagwira also had 17-year-old Lina Mazambuka and 16-year-old Shido Gowero assisting her in growing mushrooms as part of class assignment. The girls were enrolled into a correspondent course by Tagwira and are now halfway through high school.

Since 1994, Tagwira has been involved with mushrooms. She managed to domesticate the wild reishi mushroom. Other than mushrooms, she has also been doing research on the indigenous moringa tree.

"Church World Service also has been collaborating on research to explore the potential benefits of moringa as a nutritional therapy in relationship to HIV/AIDS," she says. All parts of the tree can be eaten, she explains.

Tagwira said that she learn much from her interaction with students which allow her to study AIDS victims; this will benefit her in her skills as a counselor and virologist in the future.

The Mushroom Project is only one way that the Africa University's farm is helping the people's living standards. The farm "provides a live laboratory for students and also for the production of food items," says Patrick Mlilo, chairman of the farm operations committee. The "live laboratory" incorporates all types of programs - beef, pork, chickens, eggs, goats, field crops and mushrooms into the curriculum.

As a community outreach, milk is donated to the Fairfield Orphanage at the Old Mutare Mission by the university. "The importance (of the milk) increases in poor economic conditions," Mlilo says. "Nobody around here has run short of milk."

By Tony C.
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