MASERU — In a country where chicken is almost a must for lunch, 16 women have dumped their large broiler project to start mushroom farming.
The women are part of the Mabote Women Empowerment Programme.
The women have for the past six years been battling to raise capital for a chicken project but could not make enough to start the business.
Their problem was that in order to rear broilers in large quantities they had to build broiler shelters at their homes.
The task was too big for them.
The group leader, ’Mamosa Moletsane, told the Lesotho Times that last year a villager tipped them that the government was training farmers on how to grow mushroom on a commercial basis.
“We decided to try mushrooms with the aim to raise money for our original chicken project,” Moletsane said.
“But, after being initiated into mushroom farming we realised that we had opened the door for quick cash and our plan for chicken farms slowly faded out of our minds,” she said.
In comparison with chicken farming, growing mushrooms is quite cheaper and requires less labour, she said.
A China-trained national mushroom farming programme manager, Fumane Makha-Ntlopo said mushroom farming was profitable as it takes only seven days to start harvesting and the harvesting comes consecutively from four up to seven times.
“The first harvest normally repays all the farming costs while the subsequent harvests are just for profit,” Makha-Ntlopo said.
“The other benefit is that you can produce mushrooms all year round,” she said.
She said for a 10 square metre mushroom bed, one can harvest 300 kilograms within two months and when selling according to the wholesale price of M20, a farmer can collect M6 000.
This means a 10 square metre mushroom bed can yield a farmer M24 000 in four seasons of the year.
Last week was the first harvest of the Ha-Mabote women’s project, Moletsane said.
“We have run out of spawn (mushroom seed) and therefore we were unable to plant as many as we had anticipated,” she said.
Makha-Ntlopo said the big challenge in mushroom farming is the making of spawn.
She said essentials in the seed making are expensive and have to be bought in Cape Town.
“Currently, the spawns are produced at the cost of government and sold to farmers at lower prices but the production is slow because we do not have enough technical know-how and the right equipment,” she said.
Makha-Ntlopo said there is an urgent need to quicken the spawn production and train farmers. South Africa has shown interest in buying mushroom from Lesotho.
A Chinese expert in mushroom production, Lin Zhi Ting, seconded by China to help Lesotho, said the kind of mushroom produced in Lesotho is in high demand in South Africa, Botswana and other southern African countries.
The projects started in 2007 with different villagers being funded and given training to produce mushroom.