Burundi: Coffee growers switch to producing mushrooms (By Désiré Nshimirimana for Farm Radio Weekly in Burundi)

| March 26, 2012

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Thomas Miburo is a farmer living in Kabarore in northern Burundi. He used to grow coffee but he now finds happiness in the cultivation of edible mushrooms. His life has improved since he made the switch. With the money he makes from selling mushrooms, Mr. Miburo can buy the things he needs. He explains: “I never miss soap. I can buy fish or meat to eat with fufu (mashed cassava).”

Mr. Miburo is not the only one who is content with the results of mushroom cultivation. Juvénal Nyandwi also grows mushrooms. He purchased three goats and a bicycle after growing mushrooms for eight months. These farmers first learned about growing mushrooms in November 2010. It was introduced by a local NGO known as ADISCO.

Libère Bukobero is a coordinator with ADISCO. He explains the swift and impressive success of the producers: “The mushroom does not require a large area [to grow]. Its growth cycle is short  and farmers are usually assured of a good harvest.”  He says that one kilogram of mushroom spores can produce 12 kilograms of mushrooms within two months. Farmers can start to harvest after three weeks, when the first mushrooms are ready. In the local market, a kilo sells for between one a half and two and half US dollars.

In this border region with Rwanda, coffee used to provide the bulk of  farmers’ incomes. But the coffee bushes date back to colonial times. They produce little because they are old. In comparison, mushroom production is easy and does not require much space. Wary of mushrooms, producers had to be convinced.  That’s because, in the past, people had been poisoned by mushrooms. There were also local beliefs to overcome.  Some farmers believed you should never touch mushrooms.

Sebastien Nzeyimana is one of the farmers who took part in the training. He has joined with other farmers and they now produce mushrooms as a group. He says, “Apart from the collective land, each member received six chunks of the propagation material which they use to grow their own mushrooms.” Gradually more and more producer associations are born. They share information on spores (from which mushrooms grow), cultivation techniques and about the group. Producers do not regret changing crops from coffee to mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a healthy food with high nutritional value. Nutritionists say they are a complete food because they contain minerals, salts, proteins, and vitamins A, B, and D.  They sell well in Bujumbura, the capital. Mr. Miburo sums up the advantages of mushrooms for him, saying, ” It is an alternative crop in this region where the scarcity of land discourages any agricultural activity. We grow mushrooms inside our homes or on strips of land outside.”