How loss of job led me to mushroom farming

Wangari Kuria an agri-fluencer. [David Gichuru, Standard]

How she started her mushroom business

Wangari was in a church meeting when someone came to train them on mushroom farming which helped grow her interest in mushroom farming and she decided to go for further training in Limuru which cost her Sh 2000.

"I learnt, came back and built my own mushroom shade and that's when I realised it was such a high-value crop.

The Mushroom has around 20 pieces, and you can get Sh 200, on the other hand, the sukuma wiki that sold for Sh 200 was so much you could hold it in your hands, that was my light bulb moment. I was like I want to farm in a way I can make money and still do it in the convenience of my home," she says.

Button mushrooms

Wangari walks us into one of the mushroom shades where she has planted her button mushrooms, it is a brick house with a floor that is not cemented so it is easier to pour water and balance the humidity in the room.

The mushrooms are planted in plastic bags.

"You need any form of composting waste, I started with cutting grass outside my compound, but when you deal with button mushrooms because they are delicate it's good to buy hay, add chicken manure to decompose it and break it down," she says

You will need to sterilize it to destroy the competing fungus. Wangari has metal tanks that she uses to boil the mixture as a way to sterilise it. However, another option is using chemical sterilisers.

Afterwards, you add the seed/spawn that is imported. It comes in 15 litres and costs between Sh 15,000-18,000.

A farmer has to make sure they have enough bags that will accommodate all the spawns because once opened, it cannot be re-used.

"It is shipped in cold rooms and must be refrigerated until you are ready to use, it is like a virus," she says

Wangari adds that button mushrooms take about a month to grow, they are known in Kenya hence a farmer will not struggle to get market for it. However, they are very susceptible to diseases.


"You can earn half a million from a crop. One bag will give you at least a kilo. One kilo you sell for sh 1000, because it's 4 panets, a panet is a quarter a kilo. So when you have 400 bags you have sh. 400,000, and the cost of productions is around sh. 100,000," she says

However, because they are susceptible to diseases a framer has to be on the lookout.

Oyster Mushrooms

"You don't earn as much with oyster mushrooms because people in urban areas identify with button mushrooms, but is good for starters because it encourages you," she says

The oyster spawns are made locally, transported without refrigeration. You can start small scale.

You go through the same process of sterilisations then after a month the mushrooms are ready for sale.

The seeds cost sh 800 per litre. You sell a kilo at sh 600.

Training and Global awards

Wangari has Maasai women who visit her farm for training then go back home and start their own farms and empower themselves.

"I wanted to find a way of giving them assistance but in a sustainable way, so when I realised that the drought negatively impacting them and their cows were dying, I decided to introduce them the mushroom farming as an alternative form of enterprise," she says

This year Wangari was awarded a Global award recognising her efforts to empower others and posting free content online for 4 years.

The award came with some funds and while she was a panelist in one of the forums discussing matters of food security, one of the panelists offered to further fund her project.

"I want to be harsh to women, they need to take on responsibility for their lives. We always say that men are not giving women a sit at the table yet they are the backbone of agriculture, but what are the women doing to take charge of their lives. Playing the equality card can only work for so long, so we have to be in charge" she says

Wangari adds that being a woman in agribusiness has it's challenges.

"They says a farmer does not look like this. A farmer is someone who produces food or is involved in the food system production. The fact that I am able to offer employment to other people, people should no longer shun farming. We need to make farming sexy and they become aware that they can still slay in the soil," she says

Health benefits of Mushrooms

lower cholesterol levels

They act as substitute for red meat. They keep cholesterol levels low, block cholesterol from being absorbed and lowers the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Source of vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium to maintain and build strong bones.

Stimulate a healthier gut

The microbe in your gut is home to organisms and bacteria that play a large role in your health and mood. One way to keep your gut healthy is to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in that space with the use of probiotics, such as mushrooms.

Support a healthy immune system

Mushrooms contain macro-nutrients that support a healthy immune system.

Support brain cells

Lion's mane mushrooms are known to have a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and improving memory.

Types of mushrooms

  1. Cultivated Mushrooms
  2. Wild Mushrooms

Cultivated are edible mushrooms that are grown indoors and outdoors. While wild mushrooms are edible mushroom varieties, picked in the natural environment

Cultivation has four key phases: Inoculation, Colonization, Fruiting, Harvesting.

Inoculation- The introduction of the live mushroom spawn into the log.

Colonization - When mycelium is growing, but no fruiting bodies (mushrooms) are present.

Mycelium-a part of a mushroom that is very similar to the root system of any plant

During colonization, mushrooms need warm, humid conditions with good fresh air exchange

Fruiting - This is when the actual mushrooms start coming out.