Mushroom Cultivation: A New Hope for Sierra Leone

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Mushroom Cultivation: A New Hope for Sierra Leone

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Mushroom growing in sub-Saharan Africa? Who would’ve thought it?

Well, the United Nations’ World Food Program for one.

In its March 2021, report “Zimbabwe: Mushroom-growing means independence for women farmers” the WFP stated: “Mushroom farming was identified as a quick and effective intervention that could easily be expanded into a long-term self-sustaining project.”

And The Exchange Africa, an African business newsletter, reported just last month that:

“Mushroom farming is thriving in Africa and is set to take off in the coming years. The global market is growing, and Africa holds a significant opportunity to exploit this sector. There is considerable potential to grow the African mushroom industry.

“Mushroom farming is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative agricultural activities in Africa.”

And in recent years, the publication adds, “mushroom farming has become a major source of income for many African farmers, and the industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.”

In addition, a recent report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is predicting that the continent’s mushroom production is expected to increase by more than 50 percent during the next five years.

Our longtime partner in Sierra Leone which operates farming and agricultural training programs to assist impoverished, rural women and youth farmers in the country, Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO) is also hoping to hop on the mushroom train, requesting a $25,000 grant from Bread and Water for Africa® to establish a mushroom “laboratory” which would benefit hundreds of individuals in a very short period of time.

The proposed project, to be located in Mamammah Village in the Port Loko District, involves the construction of a laboratory with multiple “incubation rooms” for the preservation of mushroom spawns that will multiply “in the prescribed condition for subsequent cultivation,” explained FHDO program manager Pastor Alfred Sesay.

Pastor Sesay notes that in the country mushrooms are described as “white vegetables” or “boneless vegetarian meat” containing up to 35 percent protein (dry weight) “which is higher than that of vegetables and fruits – and is of superior quality.”

The advantages of mushroom cultivation are many, as he points out that they can be grown on “a variety of crop refuses, sawdust, ‘bagasse’ (a waste product from sugar mills), sludge from paper mills, and more, he says.

“The processing of agro-waste into a valuable protein rich food reduces environmental pollution and its byproduct as spent mushroom is also a good source for making compost, soil conditioner and can be used as feed for livestock and fish,” Pastor Sesay told us.

He adds that rice straw, which widely available in Sierra Leone can be used as a substrate (growing medium) for mushroom cultivation.

But most importantly, “mushroom cultivation as a cottage industry has great potential as a high-value crop in the province.

“There is a huge demand for canned, dried and fresh mushrooms which can get a handsome price,” said Pastor Sesay, who noted, “There is a great demand for fresh mushrooms in the local market for consumption by tourists in hotels.”

Until recently, he said, “mushroom production in Sierra Leone was almost nonexistent, nevertheless there is a huge potential for a mushroom industry in our country with a background of high unemployment and malnutrition.

“Our project aims to target the vulnerable, especially rural women, to grow spawns into mushrooms to provide a source of protein for themselves and their families,” says Pastor Sesay.

“In addition, they can also trade with their surplus to generate income for their families. Small scale farmers in various towns and villages – without much technical knowledge and capital – can partner with FHDO to conduct mushroom business to boost their income and eradicate poverty in their families within a short time.”

On top of all that, the health benefits of mushrooms are well-documented, so much so that they are considered to be a “superfood” along with the likes of berries, legumes, nuts and seeds and avocados.

Though nutrient content varies depending on the type (in Sierra Leone they are focusing on oyster mushrooms), they contain vitamin A, potassium, fiber and several antioxidants not present in most other foods, according to And due to their unique antioxidant content, mushrooms may play a role in reducing inflammation and even preventing certain types of cancers.

“Another super feature of mushrooms is that agricultural waste products are used to grow them,” notes Healthline. “This makes mushrooms a sustainable component of a healthy food system.”

And as for Pastor Sesay who has high hopes and not unrealistic expectations for the success of such a project in a country with an ideal climate for the cultivation of mushrooms on a wide scale,

“Mushroom cultivation could be a new hope for Sierra Leone.”

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