Mushrooms in Ghana Project Plans Spawn Laboratory for Ghana and West Africa

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While the number of Ghanaian mushroom farmers is rapidly increasing, the seed material, spawn, is in short supply. Douglass and Dr. Sandra Williams of Mushrooms in Ghana Project are working to build a spawn lab there.

Oyster mushrooms growing in bags of composted sawdust. Farmers can support their families with as little as 1500 bags. More spawn is needed for more farmers to grow more mushrooms.

In 9 years Bemcom's weekly mushroom compost bag production has grown from 1,200 to 8,000-9,000 bags and the number of Ghana's farmers from 5,000 to 12,000. Healthy, vigorous spawn is a critical issue.

Small-scale mushroom production is a proven way out of poverty in developing economies. While the number of farmers is growing in Ghana, the seed material, spawn, is in short supply. Douglass and Dr. Sandra Williams of Mushrooms in Ghana Project are working to build a spawn lab there.

“Farmers can support and feed their families and communities in Ghana and in other countries by growing mushrooms. Mushroom farming is a viable source of economic stability, especially for women, working alone or in cooperatives,” according to Dr. Sandra Williams of Lost Creek Mushroom Farm and Director of Mushrooms for Well Being Foundation, Mushrooms in Ghana Project.

Oyster mushrooms grow on almost all types of agricultural wastes, which are readily available, plentiful, and free. Farmers can grow their mushrooms cheaply; but they can’t get the spawn.

Bemcom can make spawn in small quantities. However, conditions are difficult to control and contamination rate can reach more than 35%.

“High-quality spawn in sufficient supply is not available in Ghana. Farmers who are already growing successfully can’t meet their increasing customer demand. Those who are willing and able to enter mushroom farming can’t get started because the spawn is not readily available. This is true for many areas in Africa.”

Dr. Williams and her husband Douglass Williams serve as volunteer mushroom consultants in Ghana through the auspices of ACDI/VOCA Farmer to Farmer program. They have worked with Bemcom Youth Enterprises Association (BYEA), an alternative agriculture training and resource center in Techiman, Brong-Ahafo Region, that trains and supports oyster mushroom farmers. Bemcom makes bags of sterilized composted sawdust, inoculates them with spawn, and cultivates the bags until they are ready to grow mushrooms. 100 to 3,000 bags may be delivered to a farmer, who opens the bags and waters them. Within 72-96 hours, she or he can be selling mushrooms.

“Bemcom is a successful nonprofit mushroom training center,” Dr. Williams said. “In the nine years we since we first volunteered there, weekly mushroom compost bag production has increased from 1,200 to 8,000-9,000 bags. The number of West African farmers Bemcom serves has grown from 165 to over 750, and Ghana’s national mushroom farmer population has increased from 5,000 to over 12,000. Bemcom has 45,000-50,000 bags in production at all times."

“At this rate of growth, healthy, vigorous spawn is a critical issue.”

The Williams’ created Mushrooms in Ghana Project to collaborate with Bempah and his vision to secure and expand the mushroom industry in Ghana and West Africa. That vision includes (1) shiitake production research at Bemcom so the farmers can diversity their crops and (2) building a spawn lab. The new facility will be called Bemcom-Williams West African Mushroom Spawn Laboratory.

According to Dr. Williams, “The Bemcom motto is ‘Freedom from Poverty.’ More spawn means more farmers can grow more mushrooms. They can raise their standard of living from $1 to $10 a day and more.”

The projected cost of the Bemcom-Williams West African Spawn Laboratory is $100,00 US. Mushrooms in Ghana is a project of Mushrooms for Well Being Foundation. Donations are tax deductible. Donate here.

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Dr. Sandra WIlliams

Dr. Sandra Williams
Lost Creek Mushroom Farm
since: 12/2012
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