An African child with kwashiorkor

While researching about mushrooms and compost for another entry (which I will be publishing soon), I came upon the following project. It’s interesting to note that Shitake mushrooms can become a panacea for protein-starved developing nations.

Speaking of mushrooms and composting, I chanced upon an exciting topic: Mushroom Compost. It definitely sounds like a unique twist to composting! Likewise, an entry about it is underway, so do check back on this site often.

Now, let’s talk about kwashiorkor, which has captured my attention today.

First, it gave a name to a picture of Africa we are all too familiar with – the pronounced bellies of starving African children. Second, the project was run by a Ghanaian. I remember attending a Ghanaian’s lecture for the first time in my life just 6 months ago, so reading about an exemplary of his countrymen just reminded me of the respect I have for Africans.

Kwashiorkor (pronounced /kwɑːʃiˈɔrkər/) is an acute form of childhood protein-energy malnutrition characterized by edema, irritability, anorexia, ulcerating dermatoses, and an enlarged liver with fatty infiltrates. The presence of edema caused by poor nutrition defines kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor was thought to be caused by insufficient protein consumption but with sufficient calorie intake, distinguishing it from marasmus. More recently, micronutrient and antioxidant deficiencies have come to be recognized as contributory. Cases in the developed world are rare.

Wikipedia, May 2010.

“Cases in the developed world are rare” – this statement certainly summed up my thoughts about Kwashiorkor. Mull on the statement, you’ll know what I mean.

Bernard Bempah

Kwashiorkor is an issue that Bernard Bempah has been working on since at a tender age of 19. But I believe that for many Africans, the struggle against poverty and hunger begins from the moment they were born. Bempah runs an organization Bemcom Youth Association/Enterprises (BYEA), which helps about 500 Africans a year to grow oyster mushrooms. Judging from Bempah’s website, I believe it has grown significantly since then.

“500 people a year, mostly women, to grow oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) in bags of composted sawdust. They sell to people in their own and neighboring villages.”

Mushrooms In Ghana, September 2007.

Next, I feel that the most noteworthy development is Bempah’s interest in the cultivation of Shitake mushrooms. He makes several claims about Shitake mushrooms, which I will refrain from commenting on until I find out more. You can, however, read about it on his site.

The potential impacts of Bempah’s project had me thinking that perhaps even I had underestimated the potential impact of Project K. Indeed, it would be interesting if Singaporeans were able to grow mushrooms at home easily, albeit potential problems such as pests and food quality/safety. However, growing mushrooms would certainly parallel our vision of composting in apartments, taken to a higher level.

We’re talking about producing edible crops that could even sustain lives, much like the growing of sweet potatoes and yam during World War II in Singapore. This may never be a serious concern for Singapore (and here at Kainosis™ we pray that it will never come to such a thing), but for our South-East Asian neighbors this could be an important development.

That said, I’ll be reading into how Bempah’s mushroom cultivation works, and the exact form of compost he uses. So more information will come in due time, my beloved readers.

The very loving Mr. and Mrs. Williams.

Next, I found it interesting that there are missionaries not far behind this project. Doug and Sondra Williams are two Shitake otakus (I wanted to say “enthusiast” but Shitake was just far too Japanese-y for me to ignore the nippon-alliteration if you catch my drift) who met Bempah while they were on a mission.

Two things struck me: First, at 2007, they attempted to bring Bempah to the US to tour the American mushroom farms and take some expertise back to Ghana. While the Williams’ website is not frequently updated, it seems that Bempah has managed to pull it off! Through a total $8,000 donation, he has been there and back, and is now raising funds for further development of Shitake in Ghana.

Second, I was drawn to the Pentecostal movement which was at the heart of it all. Having read much about the Pentecostal movement through Kenneth E. Hagin’s books, I’m just glad to see missionaries, prayer camps and healing miracles continue to blossom. I looked once again at Bempah’s website and saw the slogan for BYEA:

Freedom from poverty. Suffice to say, I don’t find it surprising that where the LORD goes, so do man’s desire and bravery to claim (true) freedom follow.

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