Empowerment Through Mushrooms

9 July 2016

Throughout South Africa, men and women have been finding work on farms for centuries. However, the “lack of growth in employment in the commercial agriculture sector” combined with rigorous working conditions and low pay are taking a toll on seasonal farm workers (Davies). According to Mercia Andrews’ article “Sleeping giant is stirring: Farm workers in South Africa,” the minimum wage that these workers expect is “one of the lowest in South Africa’s formal employment sector.” The transition to democracy brought about regulations for the treatment of farm workers but many times these new developments and promotions are reserved only for men (Shabodien). Combine these elements with the pressure to raise a family and you receive a glimpse of the enormous strain that women farm workers are under. Clearly, the insecurity that surrounds the lives of seasonal farm workers is heightened for women – but when money is needed for survival, what other option is there?

Dynamic Women’s Agriculture Cooperatives in Ceres is working to combat this insecurity. Established in 2008, the Ceres Cooperative, located in Ceres in the Western Cape, is run by women who previously worked as seasonal farm workers. The project that the women have undertaken is mushroom farming for community markets and for household consumption. The members have completed all mushroom and agricultural training with Women and Farms Project, allowing them to initiate business ventures. This project not only provides jobs for them but allows them to sell their own herbal medicines, vegetables, food preserves, jams, and more. As an alternative to seasonal farming, these women have a chance for stability in their lives. In 2014, Breadline Africa donated a shipping container to be used for growing mushrooms. It is currently being used for the second stage of mushroom growth in which the plants are exposed to bright lights. BLA loves being able to assist projects that help entire communities and Dynamic is definitely an example of that.

When you donate to Breadline Africa, you are not only helping fund libraries and Early Childhood Development centres, but you are assisting unique projects like Ceres Cooperative that pull people out of poverty. The women who benefit from growing these mushrooms pass their success on to their families and communities and like a ripple effect, hope can spread across communities.

 

Written by: Christine Oswald

References:

Davies, Richard. “’Alarming’ rise in rural unemployment, MPs told.” Mail & Guardian. Iab South Africa. 12 Sep. 2012. Web. 30 June 2016.

Andrews, Mercia. “Sleeping giant is stirring: Famworkers in South Africa.” La Via Campesina’s Open Book: Celebrating 20 Years of Struggle and Hope. Web. 30 June 2016.

Shabodien, Fatima. “Livelihoods Struggles of Women Farm Workers in South Africa. Women on Farms Project. 23 June 2006. Web. 4 July 2016.



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