This Earth // 03.11.2011

Mushrooms: Growing food on waste

Article by Aba H

Food security at the household level continues to be a major concern for many African governments and citizens, especially in light of growing climate uncertainties. For example, over the past two years, West Africa has faced severe droughts and in Central Africa rainfall amounts have been lower than usual.

Mushrooms have been called the food of the gods because of their wonderful flavour, however for the last number of years they have been underutilized in East Africa.  Now, with the challenges of food security and land scarcity, the edible fungus is becoming increasingly popular in East Africa. Mushrooms are high in nutritional content and are relatively easy to grow.  In addition to their numerous health benefits and there are also environmental benefits to growing them.  Mushroom farming doesn’t require a lot of space and can even be grown in the comfort of your home with waste organic matter. With the minimum materials needed, mushroom farming can be developed into a profitable enterprise.

Health benefits

More and more people are becoming health conscious and changing their eating habits which has contributed to the growing mushroom industry in East and Central Africa. Mushrooms don’t contain cholesterol or fats. They contain 2.9% proteins, 3.4 % iron, 2.72% Vitamin B complex and 3.1% calcium. Popular species of mushroom include: Button, Shiitake and Oyster. Oyster mushrooms are said to have higher nutrient levels, reducing hyper-acidity and cholesterol and blood pressure.

Environmental benefits

Growing mushrooms puts little strain on the environment as they can be grown on decomposing organic matter. Different species of mushrooms can be grown in different climates. They can grow in a small room inside the house or on a small piece of land outside the house. They require little watering – twice a day – and in less than one week, you can start harvesting a nutritious product for home consumption or to sell!

The amazing thing is that mushrooms add value to agricultural residues and can be grown from almost anything: bean shells, straw, maize residue, cotton, saw dust and even paper!

In Rwanda,  the mushroom sub-sector is  growing. More and more organisations are facilitating the growth of mushrooms for poor farmers  and are doing so for the following reasons:

  • Increasing land scarcity is requiring people to begin off-farm activites as a means of alternative livelihood income-generation. This is an approach that can be adopted by other African countries that face similar pressure on land availability.
  • Although they thrive in cool places, it is easy to create a favorable environment to grow them even in hot countries by build sheds.  their minimal requirements make mushrooms an ideal food product to grow in many parts of the continent.
  • There is an opportunity for women to become key stakeholders in the value chain of the growing mushroom industry in Africa.

With some internet research, a talk with local mushroom growers and a cool, moist environment, growing mushrooms can be a fun way of producing your own nutritious food while using land wisely. If you’ve been considering growing your own mushrooms,  consider this a good time to make the trip to a mushroom fungus grower near you.

2 Responses to “Mushrooms: Growing food on waste”

  1. This article create a wonder for motivate rural farm woman in to mashroom grower for self employment and empowering .

  2. Effe says:

    Mmm i know what’s for dinner tonight :-). Insightful article and a serious motivation to get some garden action asap.

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