BY AGRICULTURE REPORTER
SMART agriculture is proving to be having positive environmental and economic impacts than farming methods. Smart agriculture conserves the environment and has quick returns on the market.
A non-profit making organisation named Valley of Hope which is operatiional in Chimanimani is taking a pivotal role in promoting smart farming.
Through its smart agriculture projects, the organisation aims at mitigating climate change as well as helping empower economically the communities for a better tomorrow, thus ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
On 20 November 2023, Valley of Hope engaged a group of women from Chimanimani urban Ward 15 and trained them on organic mushroom farming. Smart agriculture is one of the measures that help mitigate climate change.
Mr Johnson Ngezimana, an official from Valley of Hope, led the exercise and highly emphasised on the need for mushroom farming.
“Throughout the Eastern and Southern Africa region, mushrooms have become a popular vegetable due to its culinary appeal as well as a source of vitamins and protein. The mushroom roadside stalls found during the rainy season along most major roads and vegetables markets in urban markets bear testimony to the economic wellbeing of mushroom farming.
“In addition to their nutritional value, mushrooms production is a very profitable enterprise which requires minimum land size which is a factor to be considered for urban producers here in Chimanimani Ward 15.
“The by-product, spent mushroom compost is a valuable source of organic matter which is used in horticulture crop production. The mushroom industry is based on two main sectors thus the cultivated mushroom consisting of oyster mushroom and indigenous mushrooms collected from the wild,” said Mr Ngezimana.
The youthful agricultural economist noted that for the past number of years, Zimbabwe has been experiencing price rise on basic commodities, yet the sources of income, especially from formal employment, did not ensure increases to cater for price hikes.
“Agriculture proved to be the alternative income source as people embarked on poultry, vegetables and at a lesser extent mushroom production. Poultry and vegetable production became saturated, so mushroom farming found its way into the market.
“The main advantage of mushrooms is that it can be grown indoors and the environment can be manipulated so that production can be carried out throughout the year,” added Mr Ngezimana.
Mushroom production at glance:
Mushrooms are grown indoors and require minimum land size thus do not compete with other horticultural crops.
Mushrooms can be grown in available rooms, which may be cottages, garages, basements, or any unused rooms at any urban or rural setting.
Mushrooms growing utilises residues which might otherwise be considered useless, thus it is cheap to produce.
Due to the time taken from spawning to harvesting, mushrooms have a quicker turnover.
Labour requirements after spawning are minimal; therefore a mushroom crop can be run with minimum labour as a part time activity.
In conclusion, empowering of women and children in mushroom farming is a viable project which has a huge market in Zimbabwe. A lot of women might be skeptic of starting that line of business but is the way to go. Those who are funding women empowerment project should consider the mushroom constituency so as to expand the organic mushroom farming initiative.