Susan Tumwesi is amongst hundreds of local landowners who have created innovative new businesses along the shores of Uganda’s picturesque Lake Bunyonyi.
Supported by ‘Striking A Balance: Developing a Green Economy Around Lake Bunyonyi’, a Self Help Africa project that seeks to find a balance between the economic needs of local people, and the environmental needs of protecting the lake and its hinterlands, Susan is one of 36 local women to have started mushroom growing to earn a living.
It’s a venture that has allowed her to move away from crop cultivation on the fragile slopes that surround the lake, and instead produce mushrooms in an outhouse that she has built adjacent to her family’s home, close to the lakeshore.
“I have 40 bags [of mushrooms]. After a month of harvesting I made Ushs. 150,000 [around € 40]. I will harvest for 3 months, and expect to make around Ushs. 500,000 (€ 130]”.
Susan’s venture is being supported by Uganda’s Mushroom Training and Resource Centre, which is situated in the nearby town of Kabale, with the centre providing growers with their initial start-up seed bags, and also drying and processing facilities where the women can sell their crop. It is a ready market and allows them to earn a good income. The centre has also provided training to the women, and technical support to them with their venture.
Lake Bunyonyi, one of Uganda’s most beautiful natural sites, provides safe and clean drinking water for upwards of two million people. Located close to the UNESCO listed Bwindi Forest National Park, home of Uganda’s famous silverback gorillas, it is also a valuable and important tourist attraction.
The ‘Striking a Balance’ project has sought to balance the needs of local farmers to earn a living, and the need to preserve and protect the fragile ecosystem. Alongside creating community-based income generating enterprises like mushroom growing, goat rearing and beekeeping, the project has supported extensive tree planting, fruit tree production, indigenous crafts, and has supported communities to build terracing and check dams to prevent soil erosion and siltation of the lake.
‘Striking a Balance’ has received backing from the European Union, Irish Aid, Community Foundation of Ireland, and other trusts and foundations.