MUSHROOM is an agricultural crop considered worldwide as a major source of protein in diets, with a range of extraordinary health benefits.
It is noted for enormous nutrients which boost the production of Vitamin D which enhances the functioning of the immune system, aids in weight loss, among others.
In Ghana, mushrooms are loved by many but until recently it was seasonal. One could only get to eat it during the rainy season.
However, with the application of simple technologies, mushrooms are currently being produced in quantities for both local and external consumption.
Probably the most preferred mushroom in Ghana is the one that grows from decaying palm trees that are felled and wine extracted from them. They are referred to in the Akan language as ‘domo’.
There are many other species of mushrooms in the country which grow in the wild and are collected by both men and women and sold mostly along the roadside and in markets.
Worldwide, there are many types of mushrooms, some of which are edible and others poisonous.
Only 14 cultivars out of the numerous species of mushroom have been accepted worldwide for food and for medicinal purposes. Among them is the oyster cultivar, which is easily and widely produced in Ghana.
With the commercialisation of mushroom production, some entrepreneurs have taken the challenge to produce the crop in commercial quantities for sale in the country as well as for export.
Ghana currently faces challenges as far as employment for the teeming youth is concerned, and if properly harnessed, mushroom production can be a source of employment avenue, and farmers can generate extra incomes if they are taught simple technologies in mushroom production.
The Nkoranza mushroom model
Realising the importance of mushroom production as a potential for employment creation, a project dubbed Nkoranza North Mushroom Production and Agribusiness Development Project has been launched.
The European Union (EU) sponsored project, which is to run for a period of four years, started in January, this year at a cost of one million euros.
The EU will provide 80 per cent of the total cost while the three implementing parties – the African Centre for Development Finance, Centre for Posterity Interest Organisation (COPIO) and Community Youth Development Foundation (CYDEF)- are paying for the remaining 20 per cent.
The project is targeting 1,300 people along the mushroom production value chain in line with the government’s vision towards employment creation for the people, especially the youth in the area.
Three hundred and ninety out of the 1,300 targeted people will be women, 858 will be youth while 52 are expected to be physically challenged persons.
Under the project, an agribusiness incubation centre, a spawn laboratory as well as mushroom villages will be established while training will be done on bagging, cropping, processing and marketing for the participants.
The Executive Director of CYDEF, one of the implementing agencies of the project, Mr Emmanuel Kwashie Fugah, explained that “mushroom farming is simple because tons of leftover cassava which is piled up in heaps by gari producers can be used for its production”.
He said local farmers would be selected and trained to venture into mushroom production with the hope of creating job opportunities for young people, increase household incomes and ensure economic values for the district and the country at large.
“We will train them, mould and equip them to enable them to own the project for self-sufficiency and sustainability as enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal 2, which seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security,” he said.
He added that the farmers/producers would be linked to the Ghana Mushroom Growers Association and the Ghana Marketing Company for exposure and marketing of their farm produce.
He said already, the chiefs and the people had been sensitised to the programme in 26 electoral areas of the Nkoranza North District and more than 2,000 young people have expressed interest in mushroom farming”, he stated.
The Head of the Governance Section of the Delegation of the European Union in Ghana, Ms Maria-Luisa Troncoso, said the EU considered job creation for the youth and women as a top priority considering their potential to contribute to national development and social stability.
“The need to create more jobs has become more urgent than ever considering the growing unemployment among the youth”, she stated.
It is expected that with diligence and commitment, the mushroom project will be successful and replicated in other districts to help boost the nutritional status of the people, create jobs and increase incomes for many.