Bulawayo man runs thriving mushroom garden

The Chronicle

Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
A BULAWAYO man is making decent money through operating a small, thriving mushroom garden at his backyard in Sizinda suburb.

Mr Bongani Ncube (34) runs a flourishing mushroom project that has seen restaurants constantly banging at his door for supplies.

Mushrooms are a rich, low-calorie source of fibre, protein and antioxidants. They may also mitigate the risk of developing serious health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes, nutritional health sources say. Prior to cultivating mushrooms, Mr Ncube was into a detergents making business before he quit to focus on the more lucrative mushrooms.

Inside Mr Bongani Ncube’s mushroom garden

After acquiring skills through the Hortico Basket Investments (HBI), an organisation that conducts training programmes for horticulture farmers and assists them with market linkages, Mr Ncube resorted to the niche mushroom farming market two years ago.

He has since partnered a friend, Mr Kelvin Mthabisi Moyo (27) in the project and employed one person to market and sell the mushrooms.

“When planting mushrooms, you first soak layers of cotton houses in water and then mix with a detergent and lime. The mixture is then left to respire overnight before it is steamed for three to four hours the following morning in order to kill germs,” said Mr Ncube.

He said the mixture is left to cool for an hour before it is finally packed into 5kg packets that will be hung in the mushroom house, marking the beginning of the growth process. The packets comprise of four layers of cotton house and three layers of spawn.

Inside Mr Bongani Ncube’s mushroom garden

The mushroom house is divided into two sections, one side is dark while the other one allows a bit of light.

“You are supposed to maintain cool temperatures and that is why we use riversand for the ground floor because of its ability to absorb more water. Mushrooms are very sensitive to perfume and you have to be very hygienic,” said Mr Ncube.

“Mushrooms also need a lot of attention and have to be watered four to five times a day.”
Mr Ncube said the project is profitable and his plan is to grow it further.

He said he produces 25 to 30 kgs of mushrooms per week. He sells a kilogramme for US$5 and punnets for US$1.
Mr Ncube said he makes US$200 to US$300 a month and uses most of the money to buy other raw materials for his mushroom business since his goal is to grow it and take it to greater heights.

“We intend to register our company, which is known as Kasi Brands so that we can be visible and properly market our business. Our target markets are retail shops and restaurants as there is shortage of oyster mushrooms in the city,” he said.

Mr Bongani Ncube

“We are confident that we will be able to penetrate the market and be a leading producer and marketer of oyster mushrooms in the city.”

Through his project, Mr Ncube hopes to create more employment opportunities for local youths. He produces about 25 kgs of mushrooms per week and sells between 15 to 20 punnets per day.
“I believe in healthy living and mushrooms are the best substitute for meat and eggs. They are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin D and B2,” said Mr Ncube.

“When we started, we faced financial constraints to expand our business. There are also water challenges in that mushrooms require a lot of water to grow.” Mr Ncube said during winter, business is low as the weather is not friendly to mushrooms.

“In the near future, we would like to venture into other types of mushroom farming like button mushrooms, which are in demand in hotels and restaurants,” he said.

“Mushroom cultivation is a technical process. It can become a money-making proposition with the proper use of technology and expert guidance. It requires less manpower which is an advantage for a farmer.”

Article Source: The Chronicle

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