Selasa, November 06, 2012

Mushrooms put food on the table for rural women

Rural women in four villages in Thaba Nchu which lies east of Bloemfontein near the Lesotho border have ventured into exotic mushroom farming, turning small scale farming into an engine of economic development in the area.
The project, which started a year ago with the aim of introducing a cheaper and healthier protein diet to the home-based care, orphanage and vulnerable children programme in Thaba Nchu, has grown into a small industry reaching parts of Bloemfontein, Clocolan and Ladybrand.

Project manager Jackie Lingalo and her directors Nqabakazi Mathe and Christine Masala are working with a Taiwanese-South African mushroom farmer and entrepreneur, Andy Weng, and his wife, Cathy Hong-Weng, who introduced them to mushroom farming and encouraged them to promote mushroom gardening in the surrounding villages as a protein replacement for meat, which is expensive. 
"We experimented with various mushrooms (oyster, king oyster, pink and coral mushrooms) in our home care and orphanages in the seven villages in Thaba Nchu where we operate.

"People welcomed the diet, saying mushrooms tasted like chicken, or tripe or liver," she said.

"We started growing the mushrooms in our four village centres in Woodbridge, Tabali, Gladstone and Yorksford and the interest has been overwhelming such that even Queen Kgosi M Moroka of the area supported and endorsed the project," Ms Lingalo said.

Rosine Letsoalo says a lot of education has gone into ensuring people did not eat the poisonous and wild mushrooms growing naturally under trees.

The project is such that any family in the village could buy the processed mushroom bag and grow their own at home just as they grow vegetables in their gardens. She says many women in this area have no jobs since most textile firms shut down in the past 10 to 15 years. With most men working out of the province in the mines, they rely on farming to feed their children.

Pali Mokawane, who runs the project, says they want to grow the number of mushroom smallholder farmers and if possible encourage related processing industry such as sun-drying the mushrooms.

"Women in these villages are already experienced farmers of a variety of vegetables and are processing sun-dried spinach, brinjal and cabbage. The exotic mushroom has potential to increase their income faster," he says.

Ms Hong-Weng says she dreams of women growing and making the district famous for its mushroom industry. While mushroom growing is regarded as one of the most technologically advanced and sophisticated agricultural industries, she says they want to take away the myth that ordinary people cannot grow them in their garages, kitchens or mud huts.

Mr Weng, CEO of Arteface, says he got the mushroom farming model from Chee-Jen Chen from the Nan Tai University of Technology in Taiwan four years ago.

They brought the technology to empower small-scale farmers to be commercial mushroom producers - taking away the perception that mushroom farming requires extensive capital investment, a highly mechanised environment, detailed knowledge and a high level of management skill to succeed.

"Our company sells to farmers an already prepared mushroom bed the size of bread allowing each farmer to grow the business steadily. They can increase the number of crates with mushroom beds after every harvest and profit until reaching the business size that each envisages," he says.

A farmer could make a minimum of R20,000 a month supplying local retailers and restaurants, and have as many as a thousand beds in rows in a garage and harvest twice a day for seven days a week nine months a year which makes the income sustainable.

Mr Weng supplies small-scale farmers and assists operations in Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, as well as Bloemfontein, Thaba Nchu, Clocolan, and Ladybrand in the Free State.

Less than 5% of the mushroom market is taken up by the exotic mushrooms, such as oyster and pink mushrooms. SA produces an estimated 70,000 tons of mushroom a year and has an estimated shortfall of 120,000 tons.

Source: Business Day

Tiada ulasan:

a> Related Posts with Thumbnails