it is said that two heads are better than one. This is exactly what is happening after women from Kibirizi Sector, in Gisagara District came together six years ago and started a commercial farming venture.
The 30 women are involved in growing of mushrooms under KOABIKIMU Cooperative. The project seeks to empower the women, who are all living with HIV.
“We started an income-generating project after resolving to adopt a pro-life and positive attitude to ensure a bright future for us and our families. So, each one of us grows mushrooms at their homes which we sell through the cooperative,” said Petronille Nyiransabimana, the president of the cooperative.
Nyiransabimana said the group raised start-up capital for the mushroom project from selling sisal carpets.
“We generated sales of Rwf400,000 from carpets and bought 100 mushroom bags that contained compost materials to kick-start the enterprise,” she added.
Currently, the group is working with Duhozanye, an association which supports needy women, and Action Aid Rwanda. The two organisations have helped KOABIKIMU Cooperative to expand their project and, presently, they use over 1,000 bags of mushroom compost material. Nyiransabimana said they can harvest over 40 kilogrammes of mushrooms daily, with a kilogramme going for between Rwf1,200 and Rwf1,500 in local markets and homes.
Why mushroom growing
According to Nyiransabimana, mushroom growing brings in returns after a short period and is not labour intensive or expensive to start.
“It is one of the projects that many farmers neglect, but it brings good returns after a short period of time,” she said.
The 39-year-old woman said the group earns over Rwf3 million from mushrooms per year.
Members said mushroom growing is easy and does not require a lot of space. However, mushrooms require daily care, like ensuring the right temperature and protection against termites.
Mushroom growing has greatly impacted our lives and empowered us economically, enabling members to become self-reliant. It has also helped us to learn modern farming skills and have a positive outlook at our situation, she noted.
Christine Mukeshimana, a member, said they have diversified into growing of soya beans and other food crops. “We have built a strong foundation for our families’ financial future and, already we acquired some pieces of land to grow soya beans to expand our income stream,” said Mukeshimana.
She added that the group produces over 500 kilogrammes of soya beans per season, which they sell at Rwf450 per kilogramme.
Their success has not been without challenges. Mukeshimana said one of the primary challenges is the lack of support. She added that the majority of mushroom growers lack skills which affects production and market entry.
What buyers say
Gloriose Uwamahoro, a mushroom seller in Huye market, said there is a ready market for the crop. The trader said he sells over 50 kilogrammes daily, adding that some customers always fail to get any due to low supply.
“The key reason for low supply is that many farmers are still neglecting farming of mushrooms as a commercial crop. Therefore, local leaders need to mobilise the public and encourage them to grow the new food and cash crops to improve incomes,” Uwamahoro said.
For Claude Uwimana, a mushroom’ buyer, mushrooms are mainly bought by people who don’t eat meat.