Friday, November 30, 2012

Three years ago, Bernard Sambali, a maize farmer from Bashneti Village
in Babati rural, Manyara region was about to abandon farming.

Mr Sambali as many other farmers in Babati rural district was

frustrated, after harvesting just 15 bags of maize in an acre farm,
earning him only Tshs 360,000/- behind a year-round hard work.

He and his colleagues then resorted to nearby Nou thick forest by

illegally harvesting trees for timber and charcoal as an alternative
means to earn a living.

Sensing danger, Farm Africa, an international organization with its

presence in northern Tanzania, chipped in by introducing one of the
world's most prized mushrooms – as alternative cash crop for hundreds
of upset farmers in a bid to save the legendary Nou Forest from

Two years now, Mr Sambali who bought the Farm Africa’s idea of

embracing mushroom cash crop, is laughing all the way to the bank. He
now earns Tsh 75,000/- per week from a booming mushroom trade or Tsh 3
million from 600kg of fresh mushrooms in a five 27 meters squares

Going by the Manyara’s mushroom shed standard, one acre farm can

accommodate 181 mushroom sheds with capacity of yielding 398,888 kg of
fresh mushrooms per annum worth Tsh199. 44 million, if all goes well.

No wonder, farmers in Babati rural and Mbulu districts of Manyara

region have dubbed the mushroom as ‘a white gold’, because a crop is
big and lucrative, only after Tanzanite and Tourism as the largest
moneymaker in northern Tanzania.

As you read this, one kg of dry mushroom fetches Tsh 60,000/- and the

Manyara farmers with the support of Farm Africa are currently working
extra-time to secure international recognized packaging and barcode in
a bid to supply in various chains of supermarkets and more importantly
export to the overs eases markets.

Edmund Stanley and Rosemary Ero both from Harambee Mushroom Group in

Endaw village in Babati Rural are grateful to the Farm Africa, saying
it has transformed their rural lives to the better through mushroom
cash crop.

“Mushroom crop is the best in making soup for delivery mothers. So we

grow mushroom not only to make money, but also for our consumption as
a soup for normal people and delivery mothers” Ms Ero noted.

Edible mushrooms are consumed by humans for their nutritional and

occasionally supposed medicinal value as comestibles.

Farm Africa Communication officer, Goodness Mrema says, mushrooms

commercial production was the brainchild of their scheme known as
Tanzania Participatory Forest Management Project (TPFM).

“The idea is to provide an alternative income undertaking to the

community around Nou and Dareda escarpment forests in a bid to
discourage them to destruct forestry” Goodness explained.

As it happened, FARM –Africa had to train the farmers on how to grow

mushrooms, group dynamics and arrange for study tours.

“Mushroom farming has proved a successful business, as the Nou

abundant forest offers up all the materials needed to set up a
mushroom shed” she said, adding farmers from 13 villages formed an
association and built a collection centre, which they use for
training, processing and packaging mushrooms.

“Thanks to our training in how to produce spores, farmers now sell

those too, boosting their earning power even further” Miss Mrema

This year the centre earned more than Tsh 12 million, helping farmers

pay for their children’s school costs like uniforms, and construct
modern houses.

But mushrooms aren’t only for sale – families also have more food to

eat at home.
With time Farm Africa expects the farmers’ association will become
self-sufficient and take over running the business.

“For now, the farmers take their bottles of spores and newfound

knowledge to share with other villages the secret to protecting their
forest” Miss Mrema concluded.


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