Erika Vohman

Erika Vohman     Photo: Alex Fenlon Photography

AGE: 45
HOMETOWN: CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO
MISSION: EMPOWER WOMEN TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

VOHMAN SKIS 80 days a year, has kayaked the Grand Canyon six times, slings from a catalog of hundreds of dirty jokes, and is a five-time winner of the costume contest at Crested Butte's Al Johnson telemark race (thanks to variations on her flesh-colored "naked suit" leotard.) Classic ski-bum stuff, but underestimate her at your peril. The agronomist's Maya Nut Institute combats hunger and tropical deforestation by teaching women in places like Mexico, Honduras, and Haiti to cook the Maya nut, a forgotten traditional food source littering the forest floor in the New World tropics. "The Maya nut is an important food source for wildlife," Vohman says, "but people living near these forests have never heard of it, despite sometimes being able to afford only one meal a day." Since 2001, Vohman's workshops, led by local staff, have taught more than 14,500 women in 800 rural communities to turn the protein-rich nut into pancakes, soups, and drinks. Some 3,000 graduates now use their skills with micro-enterprises, and more than a million Maya nut trees have been planted as a result of her efforts.

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