It was a gamble, but members of Ibyiringiro Kanyinya Co-operative society are grateful they took the risk. The co-operative, whose members grow mushrooms at Nyamweru cell, Kanyinya Sector in Gasabo District, were previously vending foodstuff at Yanze near the Nyabugogo bus terminal.
The group switched to mushroom growing after it secured funding from Oxfam through Duterimbere Microfinance Bank in 2009, according to Léocadie Mukantarambirwa, the co-operative co-ordinator.
The group, made up of 25 members, 19 women and six men, produces about 1.5 tonnes of fresh mushroom per month or about 400kg weekly.
The project has greatly boosted members’ financial muscle, as well as nutritional levels of their families, says Mukantarambirwa.
The co-operative sells the mushrooms to Kigali Farm, a dealership and processor of mushrooms.
The social enterprise (Kigali Farm)works with other farmers, supplies them with farming inputs and provides technical assistance to farmers, Mukantarambirwa adds.
She says mushroom growing has greatly changed members’ lives, especially by improving their household income and nutrition levels.
“Malnutrition has become history in our families; the project also enables members to pay medical insurance and their children’s school fees with ease,” the co-ordinator.
Odette Mukantabana, a member of the co-operative, says she has been able to buy some dairy cattle, goats and chicken using the money from growing mushrooms.
“I am also doing other small business activities apart from growing mushrooms, which have created a sustainable source of income for the family,” Mukantabana says.
Beatrice Nyirabagenzi, another member of the co-operative, says she is building a new house using the money she gets from mushroom sales.
Mukantarambirwa, the group’s co-ordinator, says mushroom farming has many opportunities that could benefit all Rwandans if it is embraced.
“Mushroom growing does not require huge chunks of land, needs little investment and can be done by both rural farmers and peri-urban dwellers. It also requires low investment and less maintenance costs, and one is able to produce throughout the year,” he adds.
She encourages other Rwandans, especially small farmers, to embrace mushroom growing, noting that besides increasing production, this would provide them an alternative source of income and nutrients.
How to grow mushrooms
Identification of the growing medium: this must be a cleaned room or a shaded building in which temperature and moisture can be controlled.
Buy ready-to-grow tubes (mushroom seeds).
Terrain preparation: tubes are grown on shelves. Use sheets like permeable old sacks to avoid soil leaks and water logging.
Ensure there are mechanisms to control termites.
Tubes planting and soil covering: before tubes growing, a little soil is put on the laid sheets, then plant the tubes and cover them with soil in order to be able to control the humidity by holding some water.
Watering: the mushroom tubes should be watered at least once a day, especially in the morning and in the evening to ensure enough moisture.
Harvesting: the mushrooms are ready for harvesting within 14 days; and they are harvested on bi-weekly basis for their whole lifecycle which takes three months.
Mukantarambirwa says though the group’s production is generally good, a number of obstacles affect their capacity.
She adds the co-operative has no land and uses leased land.
“This does not contend well for the future of the sector. In addition, we are still depending on Kigali Farm as our sole buyer. This means that we do not have power to bargain for better prices,” she says.
Mukantarambirwa adds that they lack cold chain facilities.
Health benefits of mushrooms
According to scientists, mushrooms have many health benefits, including:
– They help in weight management: overweight and obese people can shed off some weight when they replace red meat with mushrooms in the diet.
– Mushrooms improve the immune system: mushrooms contain the antioxidants that protect the body cells from damage; protect it from chronic disease and strengthen the body immune system.
– The mushroom reduce the likelihood of cancer development
– They are a good source of vitamin B (riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic) and vitaminD, as well as and minerals such as selenium, ergothioneine, copper and potassium which are beneficial to health.
– Mushrooms have the potent anti-inflammatory characteristics that may help those suffering from the diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, renal failure and stroke damage.
So, mushroom production is not only for making money, but also for improving health status nutritionally, Mukantarambirwa notes.