Magical Mushrooms

The mushroom business in Ghana is booming, thanks largely to training, market linkages and association-building by 2SCALE and its partners.

Very few crops can compare with mushrooms in terms of profitability or suitability for smallholder production. It can be produced three times a year on a small area – even indoors. It is highly profitable, and does not require substantial time or labor, making it ideal for women.

The mushroom sector in Ghana is expanding, but not quickly enough. The industry is poorly structured, dominated by smallholder producers, poorly organized and lacking business skills. 2SCALE worked with the Mushroom Grower’s and Exporters Association of Ghana (MUGREAG) to mobilize, train and upgrade the operations of 200 mushroom growers. We helped introduce technology innovations such as the use of plant husks as growth medium. It’s cheap, locally available, and substantially improves yield and quality.

2SCALE support went much further: we helped MUGREAG identify agrodealers and set up a distribution system that would deliver inputs at affordable prices. Packaging and branding have been completely transformed, and several new value-added products introduced. A marketing pilot rolled out in August (ongoing) is helping to target BoP consumers – mushrooms are one-third the price of meat. Most important for the long term, MUGREAG’s member associations have been strengthened, with more effective governance structures and wider stakeholder links. As a result, producer groups are beginning to act collectively, with coordinated production cycles and bulk purchases and sales.

MUGREAG is in the process of standardizing production systems of its members, and expects to be certified by the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority in 2017.

“We have increased both production and profit,” said Rev. Quartey, MUGRAG President. “Earlier, the farmers were just growing and selling – they did not even know whether they were making profits or losses. But with the training from 2SCALE, we now know how to prepare a budget, how to calculate production cost and how to develop new products instead of selling only fresh mushrooms. We are now entering the supermarkets and restaurants – we sell dried and powdered mushrooms, as well as kebab and even mushroom syrup.”

Working through associations like MUGREAG allows 2SCALE to generate industry-wide impacts with a small team. This partnership has helped the industry increase competiveness, with better larger harvests, better quality and consistent supplies. It has created jobs on-farm and in processing, packaging and retail.

One beneficiary is 63-year old Patience Agbo. In 2015, she was one of the first batch of farmer trainees; this year she was named the best mushroom farmer in the district. “I have been in the mushroom business for 16 years, but the last 2 years have been so different,” Patience says. suddenly when my husband’s business went down. I employ 4 to 6 at a time who assist me in making the bags. But I used to sell from my home, and business was not so good. Now I work through the association, which has baggers and marketers. The training I got, it opened us to do something more. I now prepare mushroom kebabs, mushroom drinks and shitoh (mushroom sauce) for sale. I employ six people – and this year I want to hire more.”

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