Joseph Mutabazi, Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda project assistant, reports on the progress of the organization’s mushroom programs with rural women in Rwanda.
Sustainable Harvest®-Rwanda (SH-R), in partnership with Women for Women International (WfWI) and Kigali Farms—and funded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies—has reintroduced mushrooms into two communities in Kayonza.
SH-R has provided Grow It Yourself kits to 20 women coffee growers and current WfWI enrollees in Kabarondo and 20 women coffee growers in Rukara as part of a pilot project to assess viability of growing and selling mushrooms in the local market.
In field visits so far, we have seen that women appreciate the nutritional benefits of mushrooms for their families and now are thinking about agribusiness surrounding mushrooms. Women are optimistic that there is space in the market for their mushrooms because other community members have shown interest in growing mushrooms themselves, and there are clear indicators that there is market demand.
The pilot started by training of four trainers from each sector; the following day the four trainers trained the remaining 16 women. On that day, we distributed the mushroom Grow It Yourself kits. During the training of trainers at Rukara sector with Kigali Farms education and outreach manager Sam Niyomugabo, the women learned about the nutritional and economic benefits of mushrooms.
After the lessons the women asked different questions and Sam encouraged the group members to give answers themselves. For example, one trainee asked how they will find a market when they happen to produce a large quantity of mushrooms. Her colleague responded, “I do not see market availability as a problem. If we produce a huge volume of mushrooms, we will sell them to the community, including the new health center and schools. And if not, we can dry them or add their value into sambusa (stuffed pastries) so that people can buy them differently.”
I have gone back to the field to check on the women twice since distributing the kits, and they are excited about the mushrooms both because they grow quickly and because they are delicious. Several women have asked me for more kits, and even more neighbors have asked how they can also get involved. Many women in Sustainable Harvest®’s program have shared the mushrooms with their neighbors. Hence, in both Kabarondo and Rukara, neighbors and women in the program have started collecting money in order to purchase more kits.
All 40 women participants and their neighbors are clearly intrigued and willing to grow mushrooms within a pilot timeline. This is an important indicator for SH-R, as sustainable business growth is a priority. After the pilot ends and data are collected to assess market viability and potential for profit, we look forward to scaling up the mushroom program through more participants and a higher volume of mushroom tubes, leading to income generation for women participants in the program.