Mushroom farming creating bright futures for Uganda women

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Mushroom growing has become one of the fastest-growing home-based venture in Uganda.

It has proven to be a wellspring of income for many, especially women.

It is popular because it allows the recycling of nutritionally worthless materials such as husks and dung, which would otherwise pollute the environment, to be turned into nourishing delights with many health benefits.

Namyalo Siyana has become one of the suppliers of vegetarian “ground meat” in Sheema, western Uganda. She started mushroom farming after listening to a radio program that taught residents how to grow mushrooms.

“Initially, I was not motivated by a desire to make money but to get the health benefits. But later, I realized its business potential and expanded it to subsistence farming,” she told Anadolu Agency.

Siyana said demand is growing daily because customers cannot afford to buy foods like fish or meat because they are expensive.

But mushroom is affordable, yet it meets most nutritional needs that would be received from meat.

“My target is to add value through drying and packaging them with beautiful brands, so as to attract more customers and start exporting to a wider market,” she said.

Nutritionist Nakalembe Sophie agreed that mushrooms contain the same quality of protein found in animals and also provide lysine and tryptophan protein, which are lacking in some vegetables and cereals.

“Mushrooms are particularly highly nutritious and medicinal foods that are essential to human health. They act as antioxidants that may protect the body against cancer, immune boosters, and lower high blood pressure,” Nakalembe told Anadolu Agency. “They are also high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and folic acid, as well as being a useful supply of iron for anemic people.”

Ready market 

Rehema Twongiirwe Jumbe is among the many women in Sheema who have ventured into mushroom farming, turning the wild vegetable into gold.

“I realized that it is not labor intensive and doesn’t require huge capital, yet, the market is already there. So, this became a motivation to venture into the business. I sell 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) for $2 and in a good week I can make almost $100 because my garden is small,” she said. “My target is to save money and grow the delicacy on a large scale.”

Some mushroom farmers in Kampala told Anadolu Agency that buyers often underprice their product.

“The prices they want to pay do not match the hustle we go through to bring the delicacy on the street, and this is demoralizing, said supplier Twaha Juma.

One kilogram in Kampala costs between $2 and $3.

Agricultural officer Canary Ahimbi said the delicacy is a crop with distinct growing conditions that are not affected by the weather as much as other crops and can grow at any time of the year, and the process is easy.

“The outer covering of seeds, for example — beans and cotton — are soaked in water overnight, boiled the following day, and allowed to cool. Mushroom spores are then introduced in the polythene bags and left in a dark room free from insects, smells, and loud sounds that may affect production for about two weeks for husks to burst open.

“The farmer can then start watering them twice daily for about three days and harvesting starts on the third day, and this can go on for three to four months depending on the quality of the mushroom spores and the care,” Ahimbi added.