Mushroom production in East Africa faces many challenges including weak market linkages, poor access to substrates and low quality of mushrooms, lack of standard packaging and measurement, and minimal value addition.
Mushrooms are currently the best economical biotechnology for lignocelluloses organic waste recycling, that is, mushrooms are not only nutrient-rich and a good source of proteins, but their production also reduces environmental pollution. Mushroom cultivation is a low capital investment, yet profitable, venture that leads to job creation and improved incomes for households.
This project will create, disseminate, and scale up standardized substrate blocks, which will be marketed under the brand name ‘OKOA’, meaning ‘save’ in Swahili. Traditional mushroom cultivation requires collection of substrate materials, mixing, packing, and pasteurization, among other activities. This process is long and tedious, and is often one of the major reasons mushroom farming is abandoned, or not taken up at all. OKOA substrate blocks, on the other hand, are made from bio-waste, have adequate moisture content, and have a long shelf life.
Ready-to-use OKOA substrate blocks not only reduce labour costs, and time preparing substrates by 36 hours, but they also encourage mushroom production by women, old-age growers, and people without the time and physical capability to take part in substrate collection, mixing and packing.