The ‘Mushroom Lady’ is Growing Change in Tanzania

By , Promoting Prosperity Worldwide

This article was originally published by Land O’Lakes and written by Ashley Peterson here

Recognizing the women who feed the world for International Women’s Day

In Tanzania, women are the caretakers of the land. Dressed in vibrant African prints under the hot, unforgiving sun, day-after-day, they plant, weed and harvest the fields. With limited technology, these chores are time-intensive and exhausting. In the evenings, they carry home the day’s harvest to prepare for the family’s dinner. They then sell what they can at the local market. The next morning, they start over again.Even though farming here is a way of life, many rural villages in Tanzania lack nutritional diversity because they eat the same foods day-after-day, meal-after-meal. With their role in the field, women are the nutrition gatekeepers to these communities. And yet, too often, they are not land owners. They are not household decision-makers. They lack access to tools, financing and education needed to push forward. They are not empowered. Even worse, these gender customs are barriers to breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

Innovations in Gender Equality

Whether it’s a farmer in Wisconsin or an entrepreneur in Tanzania, at Land O’Lakes, Inc., we believe that feeding human progress starts with helping those who bear the great responsibility of growing food to fuel their communities. Land O’Lakes International Development, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit closely rooted in our Land O’Lakes, Inc. history, is working to address the constraints Tanzanian women face in the field and in the home through the USAID-funded Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) program.

“When you empower a woman, you empower a whole family,” says Judith Simon Muro, a Tanzanian farmer and entrepreneur. To her, elevating a woman’s worth not only makes for a more prosperous family, but also a more prosperous, well-nourished, happier nation. Living in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam, Judith is demonstrating the important leadership role that women can play in agriculture—through mushrooms.

On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate women like Judith who are creating a better, more equitable world for women in agriculture. Through this USAID-funded video, we are delighted to share Judith’s story:

Judith’s story

Mushrooms. Toadstools. Fungus. Love ’em or hate ’em, mushrooms are a nutritious and common food in Tanzania. And, as it turns out, they are easy to grow too. Especially when using Judith’s innovation: a mushroom house. These locally-made structures take up a small space, use recycled materials, require minimal maintenance, and for those without land, like women and young adults, they provide a way to grow a healthy and profitable crop year-round.

In 2015, IGE provided Judith with business training and a grant to acquire tools, mushroom seeds and connections to grow her business. From 2015-2016, Judith’s annual business revenue grew from $1,200 to $25,000.

The five-year IGE program is promoting gender equality in agriculture by supporting entrepreneurs like Judith to test and promote innovations that reduce women’s time and labor burdens. At the same time, the program is training communities on the benefits of equally treating women, men, girls and boys inside and outside of the home.

International Women’s Day

We are proud to partner with businesses like Judith’s. At the same time, we know there is much more progress to be made in breaking down the barriers that women in agriculture face. Land O’Lakes International Development is committed to making gender a critical focus across all of our projects. Together with other like-minded organizations, we collaborated to define Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality. This list was officially launched today.

Join us this International Women’s Day in committing to support women like Judith by sharing this video as we all strive to #BeBoldForChange.

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