One of the ever growing gardening initiatives is the Mushroom Centre.
Due to the generosity of one of our Australian donors, we have been able to establish a low maintenance but high value mushroom farm. These fungi are highly prized by local hotels and command a good price.
The whole community is full of smiles because of the mushroom project in their midst .Seeing the bright Oyster mushroom emerging from polythene bags makes one feel like having a bite. A center that started in April 2011 on a humble beginning with a donation of US$ 600 from Terry O' Reilly has turned out to be a blessing to the village. It is aimed at raising money to meet the needs of orphans and vulnerable children of The Sunbeam Project. The first of its kind in the village is on the lips of everyone in the community. Women have welcomed and have owned the project and have since started building their small huts to grow their own mushrooms at their own homes than spend a whopping 4000 Uganda shillings on a kilogram from the center. Within months of the centre’s inception, at least 100 local women including the Batwa have attained skills and the centre has a target of training more than 500 people. Older orphans too have utilized the center for skills. The interest among the people is enormous since the cost of production is low enough for everybody to join the business. The harvests are bought by the center and sold to hotels, institutions and the local community.
The farmers have found it an ideal business in that, they need less land, very few working hours, and extremely low capital to start. These mushrooms grow on a variety of substrates that can be found locally on straws of sorghum, millet, beans, maize, and banana fibres, sawdust etc. In fact, most agricultural or wood waste products can be used.
Growing oyster mushrooms does not require a big piece of land, a couple of square meters outside the house is enough. They grow in polythene bags or any other bag of the kind. The period from planting the mycelium to the start of harvesting is 15-25 days. The working hours required are very few, in principle a few hours for preparing substrate bags, and time required for harvesting. In between those occasions, the only work needed is maintaining the humidity inside the bags by watering during the fruiting stage. This work could be done by any family member at home during the day.
A mushroom is not just a meal to fill the stomach but a very nutritious meal that you feel you would recommend everyone to have a taste. Mushrooms are not only nutritious but also highly medicinal. People living with HIV in the community have taken up eating mushroom as a remedy to their immunity.
The centre plans soon to start producing spawn or mushroom seeds if resources allow. Located on a quarter acre of land the center hopes to expand and build offices and a laboratory for research in mushroom growing.
However all is not good at the center, there is no water at the place which hinders the watering process, the movement from the center to water source is rather difficult. Thanks to Terry O' Reilly and Steve Cairns for the enormous contribution towards the center and the Sunbeam Project respectively.
The centre does faces financial constraints owever. We wish to upgrade and become a centrefor research and start producing mycelium to meet the demand of the local people, and also to start generating a substantial income for the out growers. Different steps have to be taken in order to build a functioning marketing and sales department, pick up stations centre for sorting, packing and drying mushrooms, and an economy department if any funding comes along the way.
Women in training