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U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development
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It would have been easy for Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushrooms in Perkins and Bernard Bempah, founder and director of BemCom in Ghana, to remain invisible at the U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development in New York City.
But Williams and Bempah made some noise, using Williams' can-do attitude and Bempah's sincere, unflappable character to make their message heard. Bempah is the founder of BemCom Youth Enterprise and Association, a non-profit organization that trains between 500 and 700 West Africans to grow oyster mushrooms and raise certain small, protein-rich animals each year with hopes that they can use their skills and knowledge to escape poverty. Bempah came to the United States this summer thanks to the Mushrooms in Ghana Program established by Williams and her husband, Douglass, after a trip to Ghana in 2007. Bempah maintained his composure despite frequent interruptions from a group that was trying to take over their presentation room, Williams said.
Doug and I have been working as volunteer mushroom consultants with Bernard Bempah of Bemcom Youth Enterprises Association, an alternative agricultural training and resource center, since 2007.
To date Mushrooms in Ghana Project has brought Bempah and a colleague to the US and supported additional spawn production training for Bempah. Bernard Bempah and a shiitake log brought to Ghana from Lost Creek Mushroom Farm.
Bernard Bempah is second from the right.
Bernard Bempah, the 29-year-old founder of Bemcom Youth Enterprises/Association (BYEA) trains about 1,200 farmers a year in sustainable farming practices, most of them women. They, along with the Magical Child Foundation, have committed themselves and a portion of the profits of their shiitake mushroom log business to organizing a three-week tour in the USA for Bempah and one of his colleagues. They will visit shiitake mushroom growing facilities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. They will also visit one of the nation's major mushroom spawn producers. Bernard Bempah will speak on the campuses of the University of Missouri and Oklahoma State University and to other groups on the itinerary.
Bernard Bempah, founder of Bemcom, stressed the importance of the program and the value the Williamses provided.
"We are trying to look at any means to eliminate poverty through mushrooms," Bempah said. The couple grew attached to Bempah, 37, and two years ago flew him to the U.S. so he could see their farm and others around the state. He's been back several times since. "Bernard is like a son to me," Sandra said. When Bempah visited the Williams' home, he was amazed at the wild game they had running through their yard. Born and raised in Ghana, Bempah had spent the better part of the last decade trying to teach small farmers from Ghana how to raise enough food to provide for themselves and their families. So when he saw the brown squirrel in the tree outside the Williams' house, he made sure not to let the opportunity go.
The best example of all is Bernard Bempah. Bernard trains farmers (mostly women) on Oyster mushroom farming in Ghana, West Africa. Instead of using coffee, he uses composted sawdust and has been able to alleviate scores of poor out of poverty. He also started BemCom Youth Enterprises/Association(www.BemCom.org) to uplift people from poverty (400-600 farmers are given training in a year by BemCom). Bernard says,"I am deeply grateful for the support for my trip. If we can get the laboratory equipment to make spawn, it will change the mushroom industry in Ghana." Bernard Bempah has also been training farmers for 12 years in producing honey, rabbit, snail and grass cutter apart from mushrooms. Freedom from poverty: http://www.mushroomsinghana.org/