AFRICA / MUSHROOM CULTIVATION: THE CONTINENT'S LITTLE EXPLOITED GOLD MINE
Seasonal mushroom picking is a widespread practice. A large part of Africans are unaware that it can produce edible mushrooms themselves. Over the past twenty years, a few African producers have decided to make it their main focus. Their success is a call for more initiatives in the field.
Myciculture or mushroom cultivation is very popular at the moment. Experienced producers encourage lay people to invest in this type of agriculture. In Cameroon, many training courses are organized in this direction. This enthusiasm for mushroom cultivation is justified. Indeed, mushrooms are used in gastronomy and pharmacy. Mushrooms are sold in kilograms at very attractive prices "3000 FCFA for one kilogram of fresh mushrooms, and 5000 FCFA for one kilogram of dried mushrooms" as revealed by Loba Zakari from Côte d'Ivoire. This income is very interesting for producers. Because, they produce about a hundred kilograms of oyster mushrooms, shiitake or earwigs (a few species) per month.
The production of mushrooms on a small or large scale is quite simple. The work is done in three phases according to Loba Zakari: "To begin with, there is darkroom incubation. Sawdust and seed bags are placed on the shelves. Twice a day, the workers water. And after three months, when the roots have formed, the bags are taken out and placed in the production chamber." In 2010, the producers of the GIC PROMOCHAMP in Cameroon revealed that they had invested nearly CFAF 6 million in the purchase of the necessary equipment for their mushroom farms. Its promoter, Thierry Fotso, stated at the time that this investment was very expensive even for a producer group. But in the end, "once you have obtained production logistics, you have 5 months to cover your expenses. The profit margin generally occurs after the sixth month. But it depends on the size of your production structure," he Added.
Today, investment is more affordable. In Brazzaville, Congo, a startup has set up simplified cultivation kits accessible to all. Bio-Tech Congo was created in 2017. Its mission is to produce mushrooms on a large scale. Tsengue Tsengue, the promoter planned that "in one or two years all Congolese will be able to produce the mushrooms that, behind his house that, on his balcony and easily". The kits sold by the company cost 1500 FCFA per unit. These kits are actually plastic bags in which the mushrooms are seeded. Bio-Tech kits are sold in several African countries. A more or less profitable farm costs 9000 FCFA, or 6 kits. After acquisition, the first harvest is possible after three months with a yield of nearly 3 kilograms of mushrooms.
Following the example of Tsengue Tsengue Tsengue in Congo, a Cameroonian calls himself a millionaire thanks to mushrooms. This is Arnaud Etoundi. He admits to having embarked on this culture because" the activity is profitable. You can produce up to 10 kg of fresh mushrooms per square meter and more. We do not need an agricultural calendar. This is above-ground agriculture, so there is no need to carry out the traditional agricultural operations, which are clearing, felling, hoeing, mowing.... ». He also reveals that the fallout from mushroom farming has allowed him to get married, open a dry cleaners, and build his house in 6 years. Now he organizes training courses to encourage young people to do the same. The objective is to be autonomous from the government in the long term.