This Village Mushroom Project Supports the Education of 5 Children
Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” There are few places where this rings as true as it does in Mukozi, a small lakeside village in Kisoro, South West Uganda.
Mukozi is a small community in the hilly villages of the Kisoro district. The village is about a 50-minute drive from the nearest district administration. It has no piped water system despite being within a stone throw distance of Lake Mutanda. Mukozi is also invisible to the national electricity grid and Google Maps. Most of the houses are built with mud, wet soil, and animal dung mixed with reeds. Here, mud is carefully coated or smeared across the reeds to form the walls of a house. This is a modest construction technique that has existed for at least 500 years.
Most of the village farming is done to support families with the sustenance of food but not to sell commercially. The most common plants are beans, maize, and eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus tree is sold commercially because of its short growth period but the downside is that it's known to induce soil degradation, a decline of groundwater levels, and a decrease of biodiversity. This collectively threatens the village’s future agricultural prospects. Mukozi has very little livestock, in part because the hilly terrain isn’t agreeable with commercial livestock farming. Despite being located at the lakeside, Lake Mutanda does not have much fish so very little fishing happens here. Mukozi is both technically and aesthetically a village.
In 2018, Joshua Ayebare, a resident of Mukozi and aware of the village's grim prospects, set out to start a mushroom growing social-enterprise. He named it the Mutanda Community Mushroom Project. Started in 2017, the project works as a philanthropic fund to support the education of impoverished children between the ages of 3 to 10 years. They currently have a capacity of supporting 5 children with hope to increase.
The mushrooms are grown in a dark house also built with mud and wattle to create the dark, cool, moist, and humid growing environment required for mushroom growing. They usually take three to four weeks to grow, an ideal short period for a return on investment for this low net worth community. The project's clients have mainly been Mutanda Lake Resort and Lake Mutanda Chameleon Hill, both luxury resorts located by the lake shores. Both resorts buy from the community project to mainly support the project’s philanthropic initiatives.
Asked why he started the project to support children's education, the constantly cheerful Joshua said, “When I went to school, life was simplified,” an admission of the opportunities education created for him, and his desire to create the same opportunities for others.
The school, St. Peter’s Nursery and Primary School was started 5 years ago. Today it is attended by 83 students but it only stops at Primary 6, one year shy of the final graduation school year for children attending primary school. Every year the school adds another grade year of schooling along with the progressive graduation of its students. Its teachers are recruited from high school students within the village that have demonstrated academic excellence but who are unable to take their education to the next level.
How does Joshua identify the children to support? "I grew up in this area and whenever I saw a child (of school-going age) not in school, I would approach the family to find out why." This is partly because Mukozi is a small village, almost everyone is generally quite familiar with each other. The Mutanda Community Mushroom Project continues to grow, extending its practice of philanthropy within the circumstances and resources available to them. "We shall continue to support the children that we can," said Joshua Ayebare