Volume 19 Part 1 Article 44
Title: New Approach to Introduce Oyster Mushroom Farming to Potential Growers in South Africa
Author: Susan Koch, Thabang Nkgau, Igenicious Hlerema, Elna Van der Linde & Martmari Van Greuning
Since 2014 a demand to grow oyster mushrooms was created as result of a documentary shown on National Television Channel SABC2. Emerging farmers were encouraged to venture into mushroom cultivation. To date more than a 160 requests for training were received. In 2015 learners from five Provinces in South Africa were selected for training. A new participatory approach was followed over a three day period. Currently the City of Johannesburg as part of their Blue Economy Programme, plan to erect 100 mushroom production units within the city boundaries and 16 officials responsible for implementation received training using the new course layout. Theory and practical sessions were alternated. Learners were introduced to mushrooms in general with a tasting session. Both small-scale and large-scale oyster mushroom production farms and techniques were discussed, with great emphasis on the use of quality spawn and general hygiene. Other aspects that were dealt with were potential substrates and substrate preparation, mushroom growth room structures as well as atmospheric control within these. Pests and diseases and the prevention thereof were discussed in detail. Farm management, food health and safety, and nutrition and health were addressed. Packaging options and the drying of mushrooms were demonstrated. Different
legislations regarding finance, labour and environment, and different farm certification schemes were mentioned. As part of the course an analysis of the current smallholder farmer situation scenario was conducted. Here, learners also had to draw village/area maps to familiarise themselves with distances from substrate sources, spawn producers and potential markets. An introduction towards starting your own business which addressed recordkeeping, buying basics, costing, stock control, marketing and business planning were put into practice. As homework the potential farmers were asked to start preparing a business plan which will enable them to source start-up financial support. The new course in oyster mushroom farming was well received by learners. They appreciated that questions and participation were encouraged and they felt strongly that the training would aid them in future ventures. As part of mentorship an email group was formed and a news letter established to encourage two-way communication between these potential farmers and central mentors, and to keep them up-todate with relevant information needed to develop their own farms.