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Mushrooms are a fungus, and unlike plants, mushrooms do not require sunlight to make energy for themselves.                                                                                                                                                          

The mushroom is a very nutritious food. Differing species can be a good source of vitamin B along with essential minerals such as copper and potassium. While fat, carbohydrates and salt content is very low.

Traditional Chinese medicine has utilised the medicinal properties of mushrooms for centuries.

Modern studies suggest mushrooms can be useful for antibacterial, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. While also helping to reduce blood pressure, moderate blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, enhance the immune system, reduce stress and help in fighting many types of cancer

A single Portabella mushroom can contain more potassium than a banana.

Mushrooms are made up of around 90% water.

The mushroom is used in many cuisines throughout the world and it is known as the "meat" of the vegetable world.
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By Joseph Mutabazi, Sustainable Harvest Rwanda project assistant

Sustainable Harvest-Rwanda (SH-R), in partnership with Women for Women International (WfWI) and Kigali Farms—and funded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies—has reintroduced mushrooms into two communities in Kayonza.

SH-R has provided Grow It Yourself kits to 20 women coffee growers and current WfWI enrollees in Kabarondo and 20 women coffee growers in Rukara as part of a pilot project to assess viability of growing and selling mushrooms in the local market.

In field visits so far, we have seen that women appreciate the nutritional benefits of mushrooms for their families and now are thinking about agribusiness surrounding mushrooms. Women are optimistic that there is space in the market for their mushrooms because other community members have shown interest in growing mushrooms themselves, and there are clear indicators that there is market demand.

The pilot started by training of four trainers from each sector; the following day the four trainers trained the remaining 16 women. On that day, we distributed the mushroom Grow It Yourself kits. During the training of trainers at Rukara sector with Kigali Farms education and outreach manager Sam Niyomugabo, the women learned about the nutritional and economic benefits of mushrooms.

After the lessons the women asked different questions and Sam encouraged the group members to give answers themselves. For example, one trainee asked how they will find a market when they happen to produce a large quantity of mushrooms. Her colleague responded, "I do not see market availability as a problem. If we produce a huge volume of mushrooms, we will sell them to the community, including the new health center and schools. And if not, we can dry them or add their value into sambusa (stuffed pastries) so that people can buy them differently.”

I have gone back to the field to check on the women twice since distributing the kits, and they are excited about the mushrooms both because they grow quickly and because they are delicious. Several women have asked me for more kits, and even more neighbors have asked how they can also get involved. Many women in Sustainable Harvest’s program have shared the mushrooms with their neighbors. Hence, in both Kabarondo

and Rukara, neighbors and women in the program have started collecting money in order to purchase more kits.

All 40 women participants and their neighbors are clearly intrigued and willing to grow mushrooms within a pilot timeline. This is an important indicator for SH-R, as sustainable business growth is a priority. After the pilot ends and data are collected to assess market viability and potential for profit, we look forward to scaling up the mushroom program through more participants and a higher volume of mushroom tubes, leading to income generation for women participants in the program.

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On Thursday 5th June 2014 marked the beginning of the 9th Agri-Show that ran until 12 June. The weeklong event is annually held at Mulindi Agri-Show grounds located in Gasabo district. The event ran on the theme "Transforming Agriculture for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.” The Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, officially opened the event on the 6th. The 2014 Agri-Show brought together up to 150 exhibitors from 9 countries including all the 5 East African countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, India, France and USA. Kigali Farms, among other exhibitors, was at the Agrishow with products for sale and most importantly information about how to grow mushrooms for wealth and health purposes.

Similar to the 2014 Agrishow theme, Kigali Farms is a social enterprise situated to contribute to the welfare of the public through teaching local farmers, organizations and institutions how to grow and make profits with oyster mushroom cultivation. At booth number 34, the Kigali farms team dressed in bright yellow T- shirts and khaki caps were busy serving visitors with lots of information and oyster mushroom products. The booth was fully stocked with mushroom tubes, dried and powdered mushrooms and the special Grow-It-Yourself kits, which serve as an introduction to mushroom cultivation for first time growers of the funghi.

Unlike other mushroom dealers at the exhibition, Kigali Farms displayed a model house where oyster mushrooms are grown. This helped illustrate to local farmers what mushroom growing looks like. Most of the farmers were amazed by the number of mushroom tubes that can be planted per square meter, which are 45 tubes with 5 cm of spacing between the tubes.

The model house also illustrates appropriate growing conditions to current mushrooms farmers. A Musanze District grower learned that his yields are suffering because his house fails to meet the necessary conditions to maximize mushroom productivity.

Ultimately, Agrishow left individuals and farmers’ organizations and institutions well informed about various agricultural products on the market, including oyster mushrooms.

During the closing ceremony on the 12th of June, the minister reiterated the fact that the country’s economy is based on the efforts of agriculturalists, who contribute up to 36% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Dr. Kalibata urged the crowd attending the ceremony to emphasize on good farming methods in order to keep the candle burning.

Written by Kigali Farms’ Marketing Intern, Brian Mudahigwa.
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Kigali Farms was happy to host students from Brookstead Christian Academy for a study trip that benefited the school children on both improving their health and their knowledge on mushroom growing. Despite heavy rains outside, the students were able to arrive at the head offices located at Rwandex, Kigali. The training commenced when Sam, who is in charge of trainings and outreach, and Brian, our marketing intern, welcomed the students with a detailed overview on Kigali Farms.

The students were eager to know what mushrooms are and how they are grown. "Kigali Farms is the right place for such questions regarding mushrooms” Sam said to the team. "Mushrooms are living organisms growing on an organic matter undergoing composition.” He continued to explain to them the required parameters for growing mushrooms which include light, cool temperatures and humidity.
Lillian, Brook Academy’s Principle, had earlier on expressed how difficult their journey had been to the offices, while Sam emphasized on how good the climate was for the mushrooms on which human beings depend. This was an interesting discussion because it involved exchange of ideas that boosted learning for the students. Our trainer walked them through the favorable conditions for the growth of oyster mushrooms which are a cool temperature and a moist atmosphere with proper ventilation. All these conditions are met when the mushrooms are grown in a mushroom house that is up to the conditions stated above. The students were able to see what oyster mushroom seeds look like and also know why mushrooms are not directly planted in the ground.

Like any other students, they were busy making notes preparing to ask questions when given the chance. One student jumped in with the first question: "Why are oyster mushrooms not planted directly in the ground like any other plants?”

Since they were in the right place, the answer was directly given stating that in order to avoid damage from the termites and other pests, oyster mushrooms are planted on a raised area specifically built to prevent them from damage. The sharing went on until the students were fully aware of the processes involved in growing mushrooms.

The session proceeded with another question asking about the advantages of eating mushrooms. Mushrooms are one of the best and nutritious foods that can serve as a meat substitute. They contain proteins that prevent malnutrition- a disease among children in Rwanda- and they also contain fiber, which eases digestion. Since oyster mushrooms contain cholesterol, they prevent cancer and heart diseases too by reducing the fats in the body. One of the most amazing advantages of eating oyster mushrooms was the presence of Vitamin B complex that increases body cells hence supporting the extension of human life. The cohort was very happy about their "mushroom enlightenment” since before the visit they had not opened up their mind to those benefits. Interestingly, the trainer summarized with a simple quiz and gave out some calendars that were up for grabs.

Moving forward, the group proceeded to visit one of the farmers growing mushrooms near Rwandex. Students finally saw and planted mushrooms themselves. The principle of the school gave her final remarks by appreciating the whole trip and in her own words said: "We will live to tell and enjoy the advantages of oyster mushrooms for the best of our health.”

Written by Kigali Farms’ Marketing Intern, Brian Mudahigwa. Brian’s passion is to help others attain happiness with anything to the best of his abilities. Because of his love for information technology, he does most of his work with an IT approach. Brian is always pleased and enthusiastic to raise awareness about anything that will improve people’s health and life in general.

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Let’s talk coffee, and get cash into your pocket!

Let’s talk mushrooms, and get healthier and wealthier!

In this world, every person eats at least once a day, but the low income people (in the third world), are the farmers (small holder farmers, mostly).

Creating opportunities for farmers is what makes me happy; enabling farmers to take entrepreneurial decisions is my passion, which is why I am the Education and Outreach Manager at Kigali Farms.

Kigali Farms has reintroduced a forgotten crop as an opportunity for Rwanda to enjoy healthy food - mushrooms - and also the chance of creating income for farmers.

Spreading the word "mushroom” is the key to sensitize Rwandese on mushroom cultivation as business or for consumption at household level. It is in this regard that Kigali Farms participated in Sustainable Harvest’s "Let’s Talk Coffee” event in Kayonza, a district located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. Sustainable Harvest is one of the world’s largest specialty-grade coffee suppliers; they operate in over 15 countries around the world and specialize in relationship coffee by forging close relationships with local coffee suppliers and cooperatives and reinvesting in these suppliers in education, training and community support.

During the 2 day event, participants were attracted and introduced to a healthier/wealthier crop – mushrooms - which many families are not familiar with as it has got some myths which prevented people from eating mushrooms.

After I presented an overview on mushroom production, women participants were curious to know more about mushrooms, and each group passed a session which covered requirements to grow mushrooms. Women found that they can grow mushrooms themselves, according to available materials. They also learned about the nutrient content of mushrooms and realized that they can replace meat with mushrooms since they are rich in proteins, oligo-elements (iron, calcium…), vitamins (B complex), and improve digestion as they contain fiber.

The testimonies from women participants were their intention on mushrooms before and how they found them delicious compared to meat! No woman could believe how we can make mushroom sambusa and mushroom-filled chapati! But now, women know that mushrooms can be cooked as simply as they cook meat!

During presentations, participants liked the mushroom value chain as it creates different options to make money through producing mushrooms, distributing mushrooms, selling fresh, dried or mushroom powder or selling diversified products from mushrooms such as sambusa, boulette and pizza.

I was inspired by meeting happy people, enthusiastic to know more about mushroom and introduce them on how they can become mushroom growers or consumers!

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Rwamagana is a dry district in the Eastern Province of Rwanda well known for growing green bananas and ground nuts. In its more remote villages, most Rwamagana residents are not yet mushroom consumers although they may be familiar with a variety of wild fungi, they do not yet have access to cultivated oyster mushroom. But that is slowly changing.

Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture’s local messaging, many villagers have heard about mushroom cultivation as a lucrative commercial activity, despite never having tasted them. In other words, the focus has remained on producing supply but not creating demand.

In the summer of 2013, Rwamagana residents’ enthusiasm for mushroom cultivation led them to Kigali Farms. In August, we delivered 15 Grow-It-Yourself (GIY) kits to two rural villages in the district. The buyers were comprised of 2 cooperatives amounting to nearly 20 residents.

These cooperatives used the GIY kits as a gateway to improve community health and boost their incomes by applying an innovative sales strategy. Instead of selling the kits immediately, they offered their neighbors and community members free mushrooms samples. The recipients experimented in their kitchens and quickly returned for me – many seeking fresh mushrooms, even more wanting to grow mushrooms themselves.

In 3 short months, one of the cooperatives returned to purchase 15 more kits – this time for commercial sales. But not the commercial sales of kits – rather, the cooperative will sell small quantities of mushrooms. A handful of roughly 250 grams will sell for 200 Rwandan francs while large caps will sell for 100 francs each; an innovative approach compared to the Kigali standard of selling by the kilogram.

Kigali Farms is excited to support Rwamagana residents to innovatively develop techniques to increase rural demand for mushrooms in order to improve the nutrition and income opportunities in these communities. We have a lot to learn from them!

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a platform that organizes partners and activities on the local, national and global level to expand people’s innovative potential. Rwanda is the East African leader with the most partners and events in the region.

This year, Kigali Farms partnered with Africa Innovation Prize (AIP) to engage University of Rwanda Huye Campus students in an entrepreneurship workshop designed to put the students in the shoes of an entrepreneur. Sam Niyomugabo, Director of Education and Outreach, and Ashlee Tuttleman, Development Director, challenged 90 entrepreneurship, agriculture, pharmacy and engineering students to solve real business problems that Kigali Farms faces.

After Sam shared an overview of the mushroom industry and Ashlee brought the students up to speed on Kigali Farms’ operations and product line, students broke out into 6 work groups to solve two real business problems. Ultimately, the students impressed AIP and Kigali Farms staff with their ingenuity and keen awareness of integral factors, from the necessity of market research and understanding your market, to the importance of customer service and follow-up. Students also shared a plethora of inventive marketing schemes that any business could take advantage of.

Kigali Farms appreciates the opportunity to work with these young minds. Special thanks to AIP and Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center for enabling our participation in GEW and our ability to connect with some of the brightest of Rwanda’s university youth.

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Last Wednesday, 16 October 2013, Kigali Farms hosted (re)New Agribusiness in Rwanda, in partnership with The White Onion, to shine a spotlight on the role the private sector is playing in the development of the agriculture sector in Rwanda.

Inspired by the words of Dr. Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the event opened with a short discussion about why agriculture is a business, not a development program. The audience agreed that agriculture is a business because:

-Agriculture is full of profit-making actors and enterprises, from small niche market farmers to cooperatives and associations, to multinational corporations.
-Agriculture has manifold value chains with multiple actors from farm to table, adding value and making margins.
-Agriculture is competitive, segmented and consistently transforming itself.
-Agriculture is food, which is a product with high demand

Audience and presenters alike agreed that agribusiness must not be an "initiative,” a "project” or a "program,” but rather that agribusiness is full of viable and feasible profit-generating activities that are often overlooked or underappreciated. Regardless, each of the agribusinesses presenting their stories shared how they tackle diverse opportunities in Rwanda.

Interestingly, both The White Onion and FAIM Africa Ltd. discussed seed production and cultivation techniques in their presentations, but from very different perspectives. The White Onion espouses the need to return to nature using permaculture growing techniques that utilize intercropping and other growing methods that replicate nature. Their Juru Park farm will grow commercial crops in this manner. FAIM Africa Ltd., on the other hand, applies technologically intensive procedures in laboratories to develop high quality and tissue cultures that produce highly productive crops for farmers.

Shifting the focus from specialized activities to a value-chain approach, Laurent Demuynck, founder and CEO of Kigali Farms, exposed the audience to the manifold opportunities for mushrooms to impact the health and wealth of Rwandans. The current operations of Kigali Farms seems only to be a precursor for the potential of fungi as a robust sector in the big agribusiness picture, affecting the country from the household level as they are impacted by improved nutrients in their diets, to the farmer level as incomes increase through rapid mushroom harvests and high yields.

What all three agribusinesses shared was their commitment to fulfill social goals through the private sector. They each share a vision for value addition – whether it is achieved through higher productivity, healthier food, increased efficiency, or food processing – and each company will fulfill this vision in a unique way.

Kigali Farms would like to thank its co-host, The White Onion, and fellow presenter, FAIM Africa Ltd., for their participation and thought-provoking presentations.

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By Ariane Murekeshimana, Production and Quality Manager

Le HACCP est un outil très indispensable pour les industries dans le domaine de l’agroalimentaire car il permet de contrôler l’ensemble du procès de production.

Entant que Directrice de la production et de la qualité, je suis en charge d'assurer que notre entreprise est conforme à toutes les normes de qualité en respectant toutes les procédures afin que nous puissions devenir certifiés en 2014. De notre côté, HACCP va nous aider à identifier les dangers associés aux champignons et pouvoir les maitriser en cours de fabrication par des moyens systématiques et vérifiés.

Pour ce; on doit commencer par l’évaluation de nos programmes préalables; qui sont l’ensemble de programmes sur les quels reposent le plan HACCP (par exemple le programme de la maitrise d’hygiène du personnel au sein de l’entreprise; le programme de retrait et rappel des produits non conformes sortis de l’entreprise; etc.).Ces programmes doivent donc être diagnostiqués; bien vérifiés et bien maîtrisés avant d’envisager une mise en place du plan HACCP.

Autrement dit, le HACCP est ce qu’ il y a de mieux pour s'obliger à envisager et identifier tout ce qui peut menacer la santé des consommateurs de tout aliment transformé, et, l'ayant prévu, y porter systématiquement remède à l'avance.

C'est un système essentiel pour la sécurité alimentaire, et c'est le droit de chaque citoyen d’acheter des aliments qui sont de qualité sûr, et nous respectons cela.

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By Graham Thompson, Kigali Farms Summer 2013 Fellow

Its Graham, back with another update on the Grow It Yourself Kit project. 

Since our initial Grow-It-Yourself (GIY) Kit launch, we have come up with a marketing strategy and explored further sales channels. From our initial low volume of sales, we learned that the inherent value of this product was not obvious to customers; we would need explain to customers the benefits of purchasing a GIY kit. From our time at the market, we learned that the top three selling points for the GIY kits are: 1) The nutritional content of mushrooms; 2) The economic value of the kit; and 3) The ease of growing mushrooms with the GIY kit. We have three cartoons that explain these selling points and find customers responsive to these messages.

As our market storefront is temporarily closed, we have been selling the GIY kits through a local entrepreneur
and in two villages in Rwamagana. While Kigali Farms does not have a stand at EXPO, a local trade show, we have a woman selling our products there. She has been selling a steady number of kits and even sold 12 GIY kits in one day! Two design teams of Rwandan villagers from two villages in Rwamagana have ordered 10 GIY kits each as part of their initiative to generate income in their local community. These purchases are particularly exciting for me because of the potential for Kigali Farms to actualize its social mission by enabling Rwandans access to affordable and nutritious food.

On the design front, we are still improving our product. Sam, the Kigali Farm's agronomist leading this project, found a much cheaper bag to house the kit. We are pursuing the option of printing Kigali Farm's logo directly on the bag. We are excited about this find because lower costs will enable us to more sustainably and effectively sell and market the GIY kits. 

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By Tim Eisenmann, Kigali Farms Summer 2013 Fellow

Kigali Farms is the Rwandan market leader in substrate production and one of the major players in fresh oyster mushroom growing and distribution. We constantly expand our product portfolio with the Grow-It-Yourself Kit or value added mushroom products such as dried mushrooms and mushroom powder.

One of the major problems during our operations in Rwanda has been access to sufficient quantities of high quality spawn. Spawn is the "mushroom seed" that is mixed with cotton hulls or dry wheat grass during a 3-week process to produce mushroom substrate. The substrate is what is sold to growers for mushroom cultivation. We currently source spawn from a foreign supplier, but have identified the need to decrease that dependency and insource this input factor in the mushroom production value chain. 

As spawn production is a technology-intensive process which is found almost nowhere in East Africa, we have decided to launch the project together with a more experienced partner from Europe. Founder and CEO Laurent Demuynck has visited GURELAN in Pamplona twice already and has each time returned to Kigali being thrilled by the deep knowledge of the Spanish market leader in spawn production as well as by their collaborative and supportive attitude.

Last week I had the chance to fly to Spain in order to visit GURELAN and their production facilities. Together with the Spanish mushroom experts I mapped out the cornerstones of the cooperation. Focal points include the transfer of equipment from Spain to Rwanda, training of the labor force in Rwanda in operating the machines as well as general consulting in spawn and substrate production. In order to stem the hefty investments for the spawn lab Kigali Farms and GURELAN will apply to seek funding through PSI, a Dutch organization investing in the private sector and promoting knowledge exchange between developed and developing countries.

We strongly believe that such a cooperation will bring benefits to both sides. GURELAN, which has 98% of its sales in Spain will gain exposure in a highly attractive and fast growing market and Kigali Farms will be able to further drive down the cost of spawn, substrate and ultimately fresh mushroom in order to bring the nutrient-rich crop to the dinner table of many Rwandan families.

We would like to thank our newly found friends of GURELAN for their confidence and trust in us and hope to welcome a delegation in Kigali in the very near future.

Tim is a 23 year old soon-to-be MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He holds a BSc. in Aviation Management from the European Business School in Germany and has spent several years working for Lufthansa, working on corporate strategy, partnerships and joint ventures.  Tim came to Kigali Farms to expand his horizons and gain insight into the booming region of East Africa. Click on this link to follow Tim's blog. 

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By Graham Thompson, Kigali Farms Summer 2013 Fellow 

Arriving to Kigali Farms in mid-June, it quickly became apparent that Kigali Farms proficiently sold substrate tubes in large numbers to experienced outgrowers cultivating mushrooms for commercial production. There was potential, however, for Kigali Farms to extend its impact into the lives of everyday Rwandans. Sam Niyomugabo, Manager of Outreach and Education, conceived of a product that would give any Rwandan the opportunity to grow nutritious and affordable mushrooms in their home for personal consumption. I learned I would be taking on this project. I was eager to begin and had much work to do.

When the GIY kit was first introduced to me, Kigali Farms expected to sell the "kit” as the ultimate do-it-yourself product where the company would simply sell substrate tubes to households and the household would place the tubes in plastic buckets- material omnipresent in every household in Rwanda- add dirt and water, and grow mushrooms. But then we asked ourselves: Why should the burden be on the household to organize all the materials? Isn’t there a simpler, more user-friendly way to grow mushrooms yourself?

To explore answers to these questions, I began prototyping with 10 different types of kits. Prototyping is a product development process that involves experimentation and trial-and-error with a variety of product designs and materials that enables product developers to bring the most efficient and in-demand product to the market. The process often reveals unanticipated obstacles and trends in consumer preferences. As I prototyped various iterations of the GIY kit, I experimented with local and everyday materials including boxes, bags, sacks, and buckets. The process of building the prototypes quickly revealed the trouble of dirt. Including dirt in the kit would be expensive and labor intensive, so we scrapped the dirt, opting to leave households to dirt procurement. From the 10 prototypes, the staff and I selected two designs that appeared to be the most cost effective and efficient.

Before going to market, I wrote a small business plan identifying the demand, supply, and potential distribution channels to be sure the product was feasible on two levels: for customers and for Kigali Farms. I ran an analysis on the numbers to ensure that customers would be financially benefitting from growing mushrooms themselves as opposed to buying them fresh. I also made sure Kigali Farms could earn a small profit when selling kits, covering our own costs. I found that the GIY kit could accomplish both. Time to test the product on the market!

Our store in Nyarugenge market was the first sales channel we explored. On the first day, Joyce and I sold 3 kits for 1,200 francs each. We found high interest in the kit. Many consumers expressed interest in the details of growing mushrooms and plan to visit us again. We will return to our store tomorrow with more signage and questions for feedback on the kit…

Graham is a hard working, "get your hands dirty" entrepreneur. He will be a senior next year at Stanford University and hopes to shock the world of management consulting after school. Graham learned of Kigali Farms while researching for a paper on businesses in the developing world and desired to join the cause in Rwanda.

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