The mushroom is a plant whose benefits to the body and mind are numerous. It also affords an excellent revenue generation opportunity for those with the know-how to plant and commercialise it. The high demand for mushrooms in the market today makes it a particularly good business choice. The University of Eldoret has started a mushroom cultivation zone in its resource centre as a reliable source of revenue. I visited the centre located on the Eldoret-Iten highway, near the Chepkoilel junction, and had a chat with the mushroom project team members, seeking to better understand what informed their choice of the crop, and the gains, so far.
In an interview with Smart Farmer, Prof Julius Onyango Ochuodho, the head of the mushroom project, had this to say
Prof Ochuodho, please, tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a professor of agriculture, specialising in seed science and technology. Before my current role, I had served as the Dean of the School of Agriculture for five years. Currently, I am a resource mobilisation champion, an appointive role in the institution. My main duty is to identify and participate in activities that will enable the University of Eldoret to mobilise its own resources.
What informed your choice of the mushroom project?
The reality today is that the government doesn’t allocate enough money to the institutions of higher learning. Every year, the capitation to the universities goes down. Meanwhile, universities are growing and taking in more students. It is, therefore, important for them to find other sources of income.
We needed to find a crop that has not been grown on a large scale by local farmers in Uasin Gishu. We also needed a crop whose returns would make business sense in a short period of time. After considering all these factors, the choice was clear.
When did it start?
The resource centre, the wing of the university directly concerned with the growing of mushrooms, was inaugurated in September 2017. The mushroom project started in January, this year.
Moving forward, what will the project entail?
The mushroom project is meant for two major purposes. The first is to engage in research on mushrooms, including the production of seeds, better known as spawns, and secondly to actively grow mushrooms.
The goal is that in a few years to come, the University of Eldoret outreach centre will be self-reliant. We want to generate enough income to expand the resource centre, and also to give back to the university. We also train farmers on a variety of topics. We develop and provide tailormade and regular short courses.
How many members are in the mushroom project team?
Mushroom growing is not labour intensive. We currently have three employees. Apart from the chemical processes we conduct in the lab multiplying the seed and creating the mushroom spawns, everything else can be easily carried out by the small dedicated and talented team
Read More in Issue 40 of Smart farmer Magazine