Government project shuts down, mushroom farmers out of a job

Over 1,000 mushroom growers in Jashore, Bangladesh, have left farming after a government project facilitating mushroom farming was shut down, leaving many of them workless. The farmers are leaving the highly nutritious mushroom cultivation and moving to other professions due to financial loss.

Mushroom cultivation was introduced in the district in 2001, and was later expanded in the region through a project titled "Strengthening Mushroom Development'' initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2009. Since then, more than 1,500 men and women joined mushroom cultivation, earning a hefty amount by cultivating mushrooms in their houses under the patronage and guideline from the project. However, the project was abruptly shut down in June 2014, after which most of the farmers have been backing out from mushroom cultivation.

According to Jashore Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Jashore was once famous for mushroom cultivation. Touhidur Rahman, a mushroom grower, once got great success by cultivating mushrooms in Chanchra Dal Mill area. His mushroom farm thrived with the help and support from the project, but after the project was shut, he had to switch his profession. 

Now he makes a living by running a small business in Jhenidah. He said it is very difficult to cultivate mushrooms without government patronage. "We have been waiting for six to seven years for the project to start again, but so far, there is no update regarding the resumption of the project," he said.

Ayub Ali, a mushroom farmer in the Murli area of the Jashore town, said although some entrepreneurs continue to stick to the cultivation after the closure of the project, they are also being forced to quit farming due to the current seed crisis. "As we do not have seeds at present, we cannot cultivate mushrooms even if we want," he further said.

Bhibhas Chandra Saha, deputy director of the Horticulture Centre, said that initiatives have been taken to revive the project. A specific proposal has been prepared in this regard at the initiative of the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension. Dipankar Das, training officer of Jashore DAE, said, "We expect to resume the project within the next four to five months."

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