Perkins, Oklahoma (PRWEB) June 18, 2014
Creating professional relationships and learning experiences between U.S. entrepreneurs and mid-level, up-and-coming entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa and Uganda is the objective of Emerging Entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.Emerging Entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda.
“It's my personal goal to promote small-farm mushroom production for economic development and world health. The Emerging Entrepreneur Fellows were an attentive and responsive audience. The whole experience was enriching and fun – for all of us.” said Dr. Sandra Williams, owner of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm and Director of Mushrooms in Ghana Project.
The Oklahoma State University (OSU) project is supporting the exchange of 24 Africans (8 per country; 12 during each of its two cycles) and 16 U.S. participants (8 per cycle) distributed among the African nations. The group that visited Lost Creek Mushroom Farm is one of 14 groups of Fellows around the US from 45 different countries through the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Citizen's Exchange Program.
The project’s broad aim is to create professional collaborations and learning experiences between mid-level, emerging entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda and U.S. entrepreneurs as part of a two-way exchange program.
Project team members chose Doug and Dr. Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, shiitake mushroom and shiitake mushroom log kit producers, as collaborating entrepreneurs to meet with Fellows in agricultural businesses where the addition of mushrooms would expand their crop diversification and increase profits. Lost Creek Mushroom Farm offered to host the group of 12 Fellows for a day to learn about different methods of mushroom cultivation, sample different mushrooms, eat a meal made with mushrooms, and learn about Mushrooms in Ghana Project (video).
“I had the privilege of encouraging two of their Fellows, Faith Nene from South Africa and Sebastian Ssebowa from Uganda. Both of them are using their businesses as a means of creating economic advantages for marginalized populations in their own countries,” Dr. William said. "It’s so heartening to see the compassion and commitment these developing entrepreneurs have for raising the standard of living for disadvantaged members of their communities. Their attitudes and efforts elevate the human spirit for all of us.”
Dr. M. Craig Edwards, a team leader for the project, is professor and coordinator of graduate studies in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications, and Leadership at Oklahoma State University. Craig has helped coordinate Mushroom in Ghana Project efforts in the past and uses an Oklahoma Horizons video, Mushrooms Change Lives in Africa in his classes.
“This visit has an impact on the Fellows,” Dr. Edwards said. “It’s great to see an example of a project that is applicable to their context and countries, a project that has long-term sustainability. Sometimes projects are a solution in search of a problem. Mushrooms in Ghana started with the recognition of a problem and came up with a local approach, customizing to their context, using indigenous knowledge and expertise. It’s building a local capacity to sustain.”
Lisa K. Taylor, Extension Agent with Oklahoma State University’s Agricultural Education, Communication and Leadership, facilitated the connection between Doug and Sandra Williams and the Emerging Entrepreneur Fellows.
“Shiitake mushrooms grown on tree logs are a crop that has many possibilities for entrepreneurs across the globe,” Taylor said. “Their flavor enhances the nutritional value of many foods that fit into a healthy eating lifestyle. Steps in raising them are simple to understand and take minimal effort to implement.
"From the day we received applications from hundreds of African entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa and Uganda, our team of educators and graduate students set about to locate internship hosts that could provide meaningful experiences and industry relevant training to help our participants succeed."
Taylor continued, "Lost Creek Mushroom Farm owners Sandra and Doug Williams of Perkins, Oklahoma, opened their business and their hearts to our 12 African entrepreneurs in a way that created relevance and possibilities for their future."
Doug and Sandra first visited Ghana in 2007 as volunteer mushroom consultants. They formed Mushrooms in Ghana Project in 2008. The project brought Bernard Bempah, Founder and Director of Bemcom Resource and Training Center in Techiman, Ghana. and a colleague to the US to increase their skills and knowledge in mushroom production. Dr. Williams and Bernard Bempah spoke to the African meeting at the 2009 United Nations Congress on Sustainable Agriculture. Their programs showed how oyster mushroom production is a successful method of food security and economic development in Ghana.
Sandra and Doug Williams recently formed the non-profit Mushrooms for Well Being Foundation to promote education, health and economic sustainability through mushroom consumption and cultivation worldwide.