Mushrooms for Well Being Foundation Projects
We were on a Volunteer assignment in Ghana, West Africa as mushroom consultants. We were invited to join the Farmer-to-Farmer program through OICI, Opportunities Industrialization Centers International, an organization that finds alternative agricultural entrepreneurs, resource scientists and small-business consultants and matches them with African organizations requesting help in those specific areas.
We were assigned to Bemcom Youth Association/Enterprises (BYEA) in Techiman, Brong Aahafo Region. Mr. Bernard Bempah, Director. BYEA trains farmers in beekeeping, grass cutter (a large rodent with sweet meat), snail (very large, with tough meat, high in protein), rabbit and oyster mushroom production. He trains about 750 people a year, mostly women, to grow oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) in bags of composted sawdust. They sell to people in their own and neighboring villages.
First, we were to address issues of contamination. Bemcom and Ghana’s mushroom farmers had been suffering from contamination for 6 years and lost 60% of production. Many farmers quit growing. The contamination was resolved in 2008.
Our suggestions to reduce the local contamination at Bemcom through improved procedures increased production by 35%.
Second, we were to introduce shiitake log production as a way to diversify crops, increase production and profits, and to protect against crop failure resulting from future contamination and assess its potential for central and northern Ghana. Bernard had received some training in shiitake production at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University under Dr. Omon Isikhuemhe. Nicknamed Dr. Omon, he was the consultant who reduced and resolved Ghana’s national contamination rate.
We learned that spawn, the mushroom seed material, was available from a single source for the whole country and in short supply, as it is in many developing countries.