About a year ago we had the idea to create a Mushroom Farm for the Yaya Girls. This would be an income-generating project, where the girls would learn a new skill, and be able to reap the economic benefits of their labor. We looked at a couple different income-generating activities but given the market for mushrooms, and that the hours of running a mushroom farm fit well with runners, we went with the mushrooms.
And so, with this idea, money was put towards building a mud house in which to store the mushrooms. Thanks to George and Zoe Girdis for the money to build the house!
Throughout the course of this trimester, the Mushroom Project idea has finally grown into a reality. On Friday, January 23, the most laborious part of the work was completed, and by the end of February the Yaya Girls Mushroom Project should be thriving and open for business.
Oyster mushrooms, the product at hand, grow naturally well in humid and temperate climates. At an altitude of about 2,700 meters above sea-level, humidity is not something readily available. And while the climate is relatively temperate, the conditions are not ideal. One might think, so why mushrooms?
They’re not a staple part of the Ethiopian diet; in fact, many Ethiopians have never tried a mushroom dish in their lives. However, in a country rich in tradition and history, the concept derives from introducing novelty. Though the planting and maintenance is more difficult in a climate where they do not naturally and easily grow, it makes the product that more lucrative and enticing to consumers and companies.
We went with the most economical style in which to plant the mushroom spawns. Instead of the expensive Steamer that one can buy, we went with an old fashioned metal barrel to pasteurize the husk – nearly a fifth of the cost. Also, because we cannot generate artificial heat, we are keeping the mushrooms at a warmer temperature by giving them blankets of cardboard, used straw bags, and paper.
The girls were excited about this project for the months leading up to it. The program paid for them to undergo a ½ day Mushroom training in Addis Ababa to learn the intricacies of planting. Along with that training they joined a mushroom cooperative and are now ensured a market to sell mushrooms whenever there harvested. The idea is that not only will they be able to earn money while in the project, but they also will be able to grow mushrooms later in life to supplement their incomes.
By Hannah Borenstein, Yaya Girls Program Coordinator