Kenya is a medium-sized, East African, tropical country with a total land area of 582,646 sq. km. The equator cuts the country in half so the sun is usually directly overhead. This third world, Sub-Saharan country has a population of 40 million people.
Kenya’s economy, like those of its neighbors Uganda and Tanzania, largely depends on agriculture. Kenya has a diverse climate that allows for the growing of many agricultural crops like coffee, tea, maize, wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton all the year round. We intend to use the residues from many of these agricultural crops as substrates for growing mushroom for both commercial purposes and home consumption.
The Kenyan people are diverse, and the country’s population is made up of 42 different indigenous tribes, each of which has different eating habits. Among these, 38 tribes are known to use mushrooms as food. Apart from these indigenous tribes, the population also includes many immigrants and visitors mainly of Asian, European and American origin. It is also immigrants and foreign visitors for whom many hotels here prepare mushroom dishes. But more local people are now trying these mushroom dishes and are discovering that mushrooms are both tasty and full of nutrients.
Kenya is an active tourist destination and offers beautiful beaches along the Indian Ocean and vast savannahs rich in wildlife. These attractions lure many tourists throughout the year, and this creates a great demand for mushrooms in the hotels. Agricultural products provide Kenya’s primary income, but tourism is the second major income source. Part of mushroom production in Kenya does make its way to the leading supermarkets in major towns like Nairobi and Mombassa, but the current local Kenyan production does not meet the total demand for mushrooms and must be supplemented by canned mushroom imports.
The mushroom industry in Kenya is still in its infancy and is growing slowly. To many people, mushroom growing is still a myth because there is a lack of communication between the researchers in this field and the farmers, and the exchange of cultural knowledge is rather poor.
The mushroom that is commonly grown here is Agaricus. Its cultivation is highly sophisticated and requires a lot of capital, which discourages most potentially interested farmers. There are a few very-small scale producers of oyster mushroom and shiitake in Kenya, but the few people with the knowledge of how to grow mushrooms here keep it secret and usually charge a lot of money to educate any interested farmers. This has caused slow development of the industry in a country that has a great potential for producing mushrooms.
Introduction and organization background
Edible mushroom cultivation has found a niche among small-scale farmers in Kenya. Previously they were picked from the wild, but now, many farmers are growing mushrooms for their nutritive value as well as for industrial and medicinal purposes. Two main types of mushrooms are being commercialized, the button (Agaricus bisporus) and oyster (Pleurotus species). Button mushrooms account for 95% (476 t) of the 500 t produced annually. Oyster mushroom, introduced in 2003, is the most popular among small-scale farmers, mainly because it can fruit over a wide range of temperatures. It offers lucrative business, requires no arable land for production, and provides diversification with benefits such as increased income, employment, and food and nutrition security. Furthermore, the abundant agricultural waste found countrywide offers opportunity for production, which in turn provides a more economical and environmentally friendly disposal system. The potential for mushroom production in Kenya is high. Demand outstrips supply as Kenya imports 150 t annually not to mention the feasible export market. It’s for this reason that Kisumu Agricultural Stakeholders Organization has been in the front line to meet this gap by: engaging in mushroom cultivation; provide mushroom training to farmers; develop quality spawns; research on new methods of mushroom cultivation; offer quality control and technical support to farmers and provide mushroom business incubation. Over the past years KASO has trained over 500 smallholder producers in cultivating Pleurotus Spp (Oyster Mushroom) and Agaricus Spp (Button Mushroom) in Western and Nyanza region. We have also developed four mushroom telecenters in these regions to provide benchmark that acts as block in penetrating the market.
To develop a wholesome approach in the development of mushroom production through research and development in mushroom cultivation, value addition and post harvest handling.
To be the leading organization in the providing of quality mushrooms spawns; provide practical research on new methodologies of mushroom production; and provide quality training in mushroom production
- Provide mushroom cultivation training to smallholder producers
- Provide quality control and technical support
- Provide spawns for genres of mushrooms
- Conduct research on new technologies of mushroom cultivation
- Conduct market research and provide linkages to market access to smallholder producers
Current Kenyan Mushroom Industry
There are several commercial mushroom farms here in Kenya. They include Agridutt Ltd., Rift Valley mushrooms, Olive mushrooms, and Devani
and Kanchan mushrooms. There are also other small farms producing mushrooms but only the four major farms have their produce sold in the supermarkets. Small farms usually sell their produce in the hotels and restaurants.
The current producers can hardly meet the demand in the supermarkets and sometimes the supermarkets run out of stock of the mushrooms. It is important to note that the four major producers are just medium-sized farms with limited capacities for production.
Three types of mushrooms, including Agaricus, oyster mushrooms and shiitake are grown here, and the button mushrooms account for over 95% of the mushrooms production volume. Only Agaricus is sold fresh in the supermarkets. Only on very few occasions have fresh oyster mushrooms been sold in the supermarkets. Shiitake are usually sold directly to the hotels and individuals.
The price of mushrooms is very high compared to that of other vegetables. Due to the low supply the price has remained unnecessarily high. In the supermarkets, Agaricus is sold in 250g packs at a price of KES*150 (USD2). The price for the oyster mushrooms is comparable to that of Agaricus but shiitake costs as much as KES1, 000 (USD13) for one kg of fresh mushrooms. Many poor Kenyans earn less than a dollar a day so they cannot afford a meal that makes use of these expensive mushrooms. For purposes of comparison, 250g of beef costs approximately USD0.5.
Establishment of traditional commercial-scale farms requires a huge initial capital commercial farm’s technical expertise comes from personnel who have been trained abroad in countries where mushroom farming is popular. To start a medium-sized farm would require a capital investment of around KES40 million (USD520, 000). This includes construction of mushroom houses, purchase of the land, purchase of the machines used for compost preparation, installation of air conditioners, acquisition of spawn, educating staff abroad, and many other costs related to mushroom production.
These costs could be lower for a person who had the knowledge concerning mushrooms cultivation because many of the required systems could be improvised to lower the initial investment.
Many farmers interested in growing mushrooms here do not have a lot of capital and cannot afford to hire trained personnel. The greatest problem, though, is the lack of availability of mushroom spawn. There is not even one single spawn manufacturing company here in Kenya. Interested farmers have to either import spawn or use cultures from culture collections to make their own spawn.
Spawn making requires well-trained personnel in order to keep the quality high. Culture preservation is not easy for small farmers and after a few months the quality of spawn diminishes so they need to continually import the cultures in order to remain in the business. The quality of the spawn they make themselves is also usually low and this translates to poor yields. Mushroom growing technicians who have trained abroad are expensive, a significant portion of the businesses