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WOD: Sveva Gallmann

WOD: Sveva Gallmann

Her life has been anything but ordinary – at age 25, she has already accomplished more than most people hope to achieve in a lifetime. She graduated with honors from Oxford College, volunteered at a leprosy hospital in India, discovered a use for a plant that was once thought to be an invasive weed, and is currently running a project to help the youth of Africa reconnect with their heritage. Sveva Gallmann, a member of our Women of Discovery series, sits down with Suzanne to discuss her remarkable past and promising future.

All In The Family

Born in Kenya in 1980, Sveva’s passion for nature and culture was instilled early on. When she was just four years old, her mother, Kuki Gallmann (best-selling author of I Dreamed of Africa), founded the Gallman Memorial Foundation as a tribute to her late husband and son. The estate is dedicated solely to conservation and acts as a natural temple for various wildlife.

Sveva attended St. Paul’s Girls’ School, where she excelled in science and began her research on the Leleshwa plant, which until that point was considered useless and persistent. She found that its oil is a powerful anti-parasitic, and that its stems are perfect for charcoal production. Continuing her study into the ecology of the plant, she discovered a new species of mychorrizal fungus that grows on its roots. With the help of other researchers, she developed a practical harvesting method so that Leleshwa can be quite useful to communities.

4 Generations Project

One of Sveva’s biggest accomplishments to date has been the formation of the “4 Generations Project.” Over the years, Sveva became more and more aware of the dwindling connection between African youth and their customs. She developed this project, which has recently been introduced into the Kenyan school system, as a way to curtail the gradual loss of traditional tribal knowledge and also encourage a reconnection with the natural environment. In partnership with the Gallmann Memorial Foundation, “4 Generations” brings together local kids from main tribes in Kenya - Kikuyu, Turkana, Samburu, Nandi, Kalenjin - and inspires them to actively seek out and share the wisdom of their elders.

Helpful Hints

  • Sveva is currently working with the National Museums of Kenya to help reorganize their “Culture and Ethnography” department.
  • Today, 43 tribes make up Kenya’s heritage.
  • Before developing the “4 Generations Project,” Sveva lived in a slum in India, familiarizing herself with “railway children” and encouraging them to become involved in skill learning enterprises.

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