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Fungiculture is gradually taking shape in Kenya

  • By Tobias Meso
  • April 6, 2022
  • 0 Comment

A few years ago it could have been rare to meet a farmer who cultivates mushrooms or other fungi for consumption, leave alone for commercial purposes. Fungiculture which involves cultivation of mushrooms and other fungi products has grown from its humble beginnings and is today practiced in the modern world. Mushroom consumption was first practiced in prehistoric times, during the hunting and gathering period. Mushrooms, unlike plants, could not be farmed initially and had to be collected for a long time. 

Even today, compared to the number of edible species, only a few types of mushrooms may be grown. Mushrooms were once regarded to have mystical origins.

Different cultures cultivated different species; mushroom cultivation in Western cultures was first documented around 1650 in Paris, France. The classic “store mushroom,” Agaricus bisporus, was first discovered growing in melon crop garbage. This fungus was grown for 160 years in open fields before being transferred underground into caverns, tunnels, and quarries — a cultivation method still utilized in France today. Fungiculture would later spread worldwide because of mushrooms’ adverse nutritional values and importance.

Mushrooms are one of the most gratifying food sources on the planet, utilizing carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients from decaying organic materials and other sources. Several African indigenous communities consume mushrooms to augment protein in the diets of rural and urban dwellers. 

Mushrooms have enormous development potential since they provide a wide range of benefits, including improved community food and nutrition and improved health and environmental security. Edible mushrooms are high in nutrients and have therapeutic properties. The fungi also help in climate change mitigation as they assist forests in absorbing CO2, minimizing the effects of global warming, and safeguarding our ecosystem.

In Kenya today, Mushroom farming is becoming increasingly popular and a source of employment for many young people. Many farmers are opting to go the fungi culture way as the demand for the product increases on a daily basis. The few number of farmers and agripreneurs practicing fungi culture also make the product a demanded commodity. Farmers have focused on the few mushroom varieties that are not poisonous and have nutritional values. Mushrooms, which contain 80 to 90% water, require a humid atmosphere to flourish. A grass-thatched mud hut is ideal and cost-effective construction for mushroom farming.

For fungus with such adverse impacts on both nutritional and environmental values, focus needs to be emphasized. Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) has supported agripreneurs and enterprises that practice fungiculture. Mycelia enterprises is one such entity enrolled in the KCIC’s Agribiz program. The company cultivates and adds values to fungi products for country-wide commercial purposes.

Kenya imports Sh10 million worth of mushrooms from China each year, but if more farmers got involved, they might close the gap and earn the money instead. The government plans to introduce commercial mushroom gardening to small-scale farmers to tap into underserved export and local markets. It is high time farmers took the initiative to engage in fungi culture.