Our Mushroom Projecton February 11, 2011
Zambians love mushrooms. Every year, during the rainy season, mushrooms naturally grow in the woodlands. These mushrooms are not the usual button mushrooms which we are used to seeing in the shops; they are big mushrooms of varying shapes and colors. All along the roadsides in the mushroom-growing areas, the ladies sell them by the bucket! When the rains have gone, though, there are no more mushrooms.
So, when we were thinking of a new project for the community, we wondered if we could help some women grow mushrooms all year round. We knew nothing about growing mushrooms, of course, so we needed some expert advice. We got this from Agribusiness for African Plant Products (ASNAPP) and from Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Between these two groups of experts we devised a plan that would work for a group of women in the Maramba community of Livingstone.
We did not want fancy buildings and equipment – they would not suit our community. So, using traditional building materials and techniques, we helped to construct a mushroom shed. It was made of poles and thatch – so easy for the women to repair in the future.
The experts arrived with the mushroom spore and set up the beds where these were to grow. They taught the women how to care for them and how to harvest them. And, one month later, they had their first crop of mushrooms, much to their excitement. Of course, it is not as easy as that. The women have to keep their project going throughout the year – they must not forget all that they have learned and they must work together to see that the project continues well.
We are sure that it will. As I said, we all love mushrooms in Zambia and to be able to eat fresh mushrooms all year round will be a special treat for them and their families. They must also learn that they can’t eat them all! Sun International wants some of their produce too. We want to be able to use their home-grown mushrooms in our kitchens to make delicious meals.
In this way the women will earn money from the sale of their mushrooms; money which can be used for school fees; for new clothes for their children and for many of the other things which mothers need to buy. All round, this is such an exciting project. It provides the women with food, money and self esteem. We wish them luck and hope that they will go from strength to strength, because, if they do, we will have plenty more mushrooms to use in our kitchens.