Hadija Namutebi is a resident of Gangama B on the Kampala- Gulu highway. She used to see people growing mushrooms when she was a child. “I dreamt that one day I would take up the same enterprise,” she says.
But when her time to grow mushrooms came, she did not know how to go about it.
In 2010, she narrated her story to a friend. The friend spoke about a woman called Aisha who trained people in growing mushrooms. Aisha had a small mushroom project and this is where Namutebi got her first training.
“As time went by, I needed more skills, so Aisha connected me to Wilson who had a bigger project than hers. This man pledged to teach me on condition that I pay sh600, 000 as the first installment,” Namutebi says. Unfortunately, her new trainer died before teaching her properly.
Then three years ago, she got more information on television. “I was watching a farming programme on Bukedde TV and it was about growing mushrooms,” she says. Eventually, she learnt more about mushroom growing, including packaging, planting and harvesting.
“I perfected my skills and started up a nursery bed with a capital of sh200,000,” she says.
Mushrooms grow in a ‘media’ normally created in cotton wool. “In the beginning, I used black polythene bags for growing mushrooms, but later on, I discovered that the method was suffocating the seedlings so I resorted to using white polythene bags, a technique that I learnt in the mushroom farmers training that was facilitated by Jenifer Musisi,” she says.
To start the process, she dips cotton into water, then squeezes and packs it in a bag. The cotton is then boiled for five hours. “After the packs have cooled, I then prepare the nursery bed,” Namutebi says. She, however, does not plant the seedlings on the very day.
She uses readily available materials for her business. “The use of papyrus mats for roofing the mushroom house gives a favourable environment to the crops unlike iron sheets that produce a lot of heat especially during the dry season,” she says.
After one month, the mushrooms will be ready for harvesting.
How to grow mushrooms
Your mushroom garden will consist of materials like plastic bags that are filled with cotton husks (it may practically be cotton wool) or sorghum husks, wheat straws and timber waste in which you will plant the mushroom seeds. Dipping the cotton wool in hot water first helps to kill any pests in it and then it can be cooled.
To add nutrients for your growing mushrooms, you will have the husks mixed with maize bran.
Add mushroom seeds into the well-mixed waste product.
According to Namutebi, you will need to put some holes in the polythene bags in order for the mushrooms to protrude out as they grow. These will also be very handy as you add water.
After this, tie the top of the polythene bag, hang it in a dark room or place. It is important to avoid too much heat in the room as it affects the mushrooms.
For every one bag of waste mixture, you will be able to harvest mushrooms for about three months after the initial harvest that comes after 14 days.
Benefits of eating mushrooms
Mushrooms have very low calories. It is good for weight loss.
According to Sharon Naluwende, a nutritionist at Mulago Hospital mushrooms help in fighting diseases like hypertension, cancer, headache and migraine among others
She also says mushrooms help in maintaining a healthy metabolism and strengthening veins and relaxing tendons.