11/12/2013

Mushroom villages


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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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