“At Mercy Corps we talk about ‘Be the change.’ This is The Change,” Lloyd Chasinda, Mercy Corps’ Project Officer in Checheche, Zimbabwe, tells me.
Lloyd is talking about a small, scrappy program that is making big strides. Through Enhancing Agriculture-based Rural Incomes (EARN), Mercy Corps is working to introduce new market opportunities for farmers, including a new form of protein in this food-insecure community: mushrooms.
Mushrooms were previously seen as a food only eaten by the wealthy here, but Lloyd is hoping to change this by introducing mushroom cultivation techniques to poor, rural communities.
While the work may increase protein in local diets, it is focused on training women entrepreneurs to take the lead in this new market. By growing and selling mushrooms, women will have the potential to significantly increase the amount of income they can earn and control.
“It will empower the women to be independent and increase their self-esteem,” Lloyd explains. “I call it gross domestic happiness: Families are more cohesive when women are earning income and everyone is eating good meals.”