At the moment, mushrooms are increasingly finding spaces on the farms and menus of Kenyans. The fungi with a myriad of health benefits has turned out to be the wonder crop that farmers are embracing to earn more as the market expands, especially at top hotels and in high-end suburbs.
The crop needs little space to grow, one of the reasons why farmers, especially those in the urban areas like Nairobi, are embracing mushrooms.
Moses Kinyua owns a mushroom farm where he grows hundreds of the plants and supplies to a four-star hotel in the city center and to homes in the neighboring Westlands, an expat district.
“Initially, this was my farm store but I turned it into a mushroom house because of the good business that the crop offers by making shelves inside,” he told newsghana.com.gh.
Kinyua has made five rows of shelves on the three sides of the walls on which he places plastic bags filled with substrate in which he grows the oyster mushroom variety.
The farmer does not make the substrate himself but works with an agronomist from an agricultural institution in Kiambu, who does the work for him at 25,000 Kenyan shillings (245 U.S. dollars).
“Once I get the substrate, I put it in polythene bags but other farmers spread on the shelves whose bottom must have a waterproof material. The mushroom seeds called spawns are then planted,” he explained, adding that the room must be dark and temperatures inside must be about 22o Celsius for good results.
The spawns sprout after a month and about a week later, one starts harvesting, which continues for up to three months.
“During this time, the crop should be watered every day and humidity in the room should be low. There is no application of fertilizer or pesticides on the crops,” said Kinyua.
He harvests the produce, packs it in punnets of 250g each and delivers them to the hotel that also hosts foreign tourists, where he has a guaranteed market. Hotels are the biggest buyers of mushrooms, according to Mutisya and Kinyua, but consumption among Kenyan households is also picking up, with most people buying them from fresh produce markets in the capital.
Kenya’s hospitality sector has been on upward trajectory supported by increased international tourist arrivals and local meetings.