The Future of Hope
Chido Govera – eloquent, confident, strong, and full of hope.
A petite woman with short black hair and a gap between her teeth, Chido stood out from the moment she stepped foot onto the MAD SYD stage. It was clear that MAD SYD truly belonged to the two ladies on the line-up – Chido Govera and Kylie Kwong.
Chido Govera is a food activist and mushroom cultivator from Zimbabwe. Her ‘future’ could have been very different to the story she told today. She starts with this:
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think about ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ is much bigger, and it needs a collaboration of us all. What comes to mind, at the thought of ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ is that ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ has to be a key that unlocks the potential of everybody – young children, who are going without food in Africa, young women who are suffering in different ways because of lack of food, because of lack of opportunity. ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ has to that key that unlocks that. ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ has to be a driver of socio-economic development. ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ has to be a peacemaker that unifies us all.”
Taking us through a journey of her childhood, Chido began working at the early age of 7, when her Mother lost her battle with AIDS. Her Mother wasn’t the only loss in her life; finishing her primary school education at the right age was all but a dream. Her days were spent digging for maize in the fields and often going to bed hungry. Living with her ‘wonderful’, ‘wise’, ‘happy’ Grandmother, who was over 100 years old, she was taught to “hold onto life, even when it’s difficult”. After her Grandmother passed, she was presented with a ‘future’. It was suggested she marry a 40-year-old man, who drove a blue car, but was struggling to find a wife, Chido was only 10.
Instead of marrying this stranger and having access to food, the then barefoot Chido learnt how to grow mushrooms, with the help of Africa University. Africa University, a school for different African nationalities, was sending African scientists to China to learn how to cultivate mushrooms. With leftover budget they reached out to orphans, and Chido got her break.
Negotiating her exit from her Uncle’s home, Chido began her journey with mushrooms at age 11. Chido spoke about how many were starving, but there was an abundance of agricultural waste, so she turned mass amount of waste to build her new future. Chido converted the leftover end-of-the-season corn stalks and used coffee grounds to turn her life around and cultivate mushrooms. For the first time in her life, Chido was able to grow, cook and eat the mushrooms; she didn’t have to dig for maize in the fields anymore, people didn’t have control over her anymore, and the circle of abuse stopped. Food became a “peacemaker”.
The struggles didn’t stop there. Chido had to overcome obstacles surrounding being a ‘young, female farmer’. Having to fight her way there, Chido got to a point where her mushrooms sell themselves and for double the price. She promised to help others experiencing what she had. Now she could afford to take care of the 7 foster children, all adopted last year. The crowd erupts in applause, and rightly so. In Chido’s opinion, ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ should add more value to the farmer, inspire farmers to speak about what they do, empower farmers to go to the market with the level of pride that they deserve, and get rid of the divide between young vs. old, rich vs. poor and ‘them and us’.
The story started with the little girl who had to feed herself to escape getting married at the age of 10, to escape all this poverty and abuse, now she’s transforming the food market in Zimbabwe. Chido started the ‘Future of Hope’ Foundation to empower young orphans, who are living in child labour families, those not in school, those who cannot find a job – giving a platform to express themselves and dream. Since 2013, Chido has trained 12 communities around Zimbabwe, through different project. Currently 20 communities are being taught.
Creating food from waste has given Chido a first-hand experience of how food can truly transform communities and facilitate learning, but not just for the disadvantaged. By fusing the environment and culture together, you create something much more stronger. Men and women are coming together to work on a project that supports vulnerable children in the communities – something that wouldn’t normally happen. This is another example of how ‘food speaks to everyone’.
“Tomorrow’ Meal has to unify us all. ‘Tomorrow’s Meal’ has to help us go forward together, to be more peaceful and live together in harmony. This is what I hope that we can all collaborate in our own ways, we can all make the message out to the world that we can start taking the first steps, where food can actually be the transformative force that it is. It is not defined only by the boundaries of culture, but it can actually be that thing that brings the diversity in our culture together and to build something much stronger for the future”
Chido created a ‘future of hope’ for not only her, but others too, using her knowledge to build a sustainable business that she can pass onto others, using food waste. What a truly inspiring 27 year old.