Feature: China-funded mushroom growing project empowering Zambians


by Elias Shilangwa

LUSAKA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The desire to ensure the growing and continuous supply of mushrooms prompted Stephanie Sakala, a resident of Lusaka, the Zambian capital, to undergo a mushroom training program financed by China.

Sakala, the Operations Manager at Maiwase Farm, a subsidiary of Kasalari Development Corporation, and two other workers decided to undergo oyster mushroom growing training at the China-Zambia Agricultural Technologies Demonstration Center (ATDC) in March this year.

After undergoing training, she said they started the mushrooming project in June and that she was happy with what has been achieved in such a short time.

She said the training was worthwhile and the knowledge acquired will go a long way in ensuring all-round production of mushroom unlike the traditional way of waiting for the rainy season before seeing mushrooms.

"So far we are impressed. We did not expect this much of a harvest. When we started we thought we would get less than this. We have been overwhelmed with what has come out so far," she told Xinhua.

The farm, she said, managed to harvest 20 kg of oyster mushroom in the first week which moved to 50 kg and later to over 100 kg.

While acknowledging that the market for oyster mushrooms in Zambia was still a challenge, Sakala expressed confidence that with more sensitizations, Zambians will be able to appreciate it because of the benefits it has compared to traditionally grown mushrooms.

She further commended the training center on the training it has been providing because they cater to categories of people regardless of their educational background.

On future plans, she said the farms intend to venture into the growing of other mushrooms such as Button mushrooms as well as the production of seeds as currently there is a challenge in accessing the seeds.

Sydro Simantombwe, another beneficiary of the training program and a worker at Maiwase Farm, expressed gratitude for the training provided, saying he has been empowered with a skill he can use to empower himself.

He said he will use the knowledge acquired to train other people, adding that it was important that the growing of mushrooms throughout the year was encouraged in the country unlike depending on traditional mushrooms.

Theresa Sakala, who participated in the training in 2021, said the training has benefited her because apart from providing her a source of income, it has helped her employ some young people who were helping her.

She encouraged local people in Zambia to consider participating in the training so that they become self-employed instead of waiting for the government to provide them with jobs.

"They need to utilize such opportunities because mushrooming growing is very easy. It just needs commitment. It also has crazy profit," she said.

Diana Kamau, the Mushroom Instructor at ATDC, said she was happy to see people who have trained to put their knowledge into practice.

"I get impressed when I see mushrooms and I always encourage them to continue," said Kamau, who has been training farmers for the past 10 years.

According to her, the demonstration center has been conducting training for an average of 20 farmers per week with farmers coming from different parts of the country.

She was, however, grateful that the demonstration center was working with some civil society organizations that send their people for training so that they could train others in different parts of the country.

The training, she said, has been helpful to the farmers as they are meant to cater to all categories of people.

The ATDC started operating in 2011 as part of the Chinese government initiative mooted in 2006 across Africa to consolidate the China-Africa trade and agriculture cooperation.

The ATDCs are meant to transfer Chinese technology and new methods of production through demonstrations and training, with the ultimate aim of increasing agricultural productivity.

The mushroom project is just one of the training programs being provided by the ATDC.

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