The history behind mushroom cultivation in the Northeast region is that it is the only food tribes of NE region were able to distinguish between the poisonous and edible varieties. Over the years mushroom has become popular amongst all due to its high food value and cheap alternative to non-vegetarian food. The food value of mushroom is as follows –
|Portion : 47.93%||Phosphorus : 1.62%||Fat : 2.26%|
|Nitrogen : 6.67%||Potassium : 2.58%||Vitamin C : 0.06%|
|Zinc : 0.002%||Manganese: 0.004%||Iron : 0.01%|
|Calcium : 0.04%||Sodium : 0.20%||Copper : 0.02%|
|Magnesium : 0.16%|
Thus the above table clearly shows that mushroom is a complete food and is an easy alternative to meat. The demand of mushroom in rural areas is also growing even amongst the poorer section of people because of cheap availability of mushroom and its taste. The demand of mushroom has also grown up in various roadside dhabas, restaurants and hotels. Kingdom of Bhutan presents excellent business opportunities to farmers of Baksa district as it shares a long international border with the Kingdom with several trading points. Market for mushroom is ever increasing in many parts of Assam and northeast on whole. Volume of productions suffices little supply considering high demand.
There are also growing demands in the local market as well as in Bhutan. The price of 1 kg of fresh mushroom is usually INR 145. A farmer can harvest around 50 kg in a week from 45-50 mushroom growing packets. The farmer can harvest maximum 5 times from one packets and it is usually replaced every three months unless not infected with diseases.
All the selected families are marginal farmers, petty shop owners, and vegetable sellers. There is also seasonal migration for work in the area. The families are marginal landowners and there is no food insecurity around 80% families thanks to the different food security programme of government and produce from the agricultural fields. But about 20% selected families have food shortage.
But the project is giving a platform towards economic development women. FST firmly believes that women are central to the smooth management of a household and they know best how to meet the needs of the families. The selected women belong to Bodo, Nepali and Rabha communities. This project will enhance the economic security of the family.
The women of these villages are mostly dependent on their agricultural produce from their small farmlands and subsequently they rear livestock which sums up their livelihood subsistence. They are enthusiastic and looking for livelihood options for additional sources of income and sustenance. Inconsistency of stable income has deprived these women from pursuing and accessing a dignified life, and this brings into light the need to empower as well as facilitate them in working towards for additional source of income.
The project plans to promote a organisation of 400 women mushroom growers in 8 villages of Tamulpur and Nagrijuli block of Baksa district in Assam. The villages are Pakhribari, Natun Haoli, Ulubari, Montangapar, Amlaiguri, Hajoguri, Kalipur and Abhiyaguri. Baksa district share its border with Bhutan which is about 5 kms away from the above mentioned villages and 2 hours journey from Guwahati city.
- One organisation of women mushroom growers comprising 400 members started functioning in Tamulpur, Baksa District
The organisation will have the representatives from the each mushroom grower groups from the villages. They will be responsible to assist the groups in selling mushroom, buying of spawns, helping on savings and credit, mobilize resources from government departments etc.
|District||Block||Number of Farmers|
Awareness to the importance of organisation
Formation of a organisation is the most priority for intervention. So far FST has helped in developing the mushroom cultivation skill of 100 women and another 100 women got skill training recently. Individual approach has limitation like less production, lesser bargaining skill. Our plan is to make the organization into a community foundation gradually. Idea is to development of the area using local resources. Our focus will be to orient the members about community foundation, develop their knowledge, skill and set up process in functioning it effectively.
Mushroom cultivation is established activity amongst many farmers under villages of Tamulpur and Nagrijuli Development Blocks of Baksa district. These farmers are scattered in many villages. The business volume is just at subsistence level to sustain the households. Women play a crucial role in the cultivation process of mushroom as the activity is being done at homesteads of the households. The only explored market for the farmers in the area is locally in villages and traders from Bhutan who crossover to India for trading purposes. The market potential of the activity is far greater than that of local markets in the area.
Metro city of Guwahati and other parts of northeast presents ample of business potential to farmers if they can scale the productions on commercial lines. FST will play a role of catalyst in providing such linkages to farmers; hence to encourage the farmers for commercial cultivation of mushrooms it is important to increase their profits with linkage to greater market. The effort will make the activity sustainable in nature to strengthen livelihoods of the farmers. Therefore Organization proposes to organize series of awareness creation meetings to disseminate information regarding business potential of mushroom cultivation amongst farmers on commercial lines.
Organize farmers under one roof for backward and forward linkages
To attain business volume it is imperative that productions are enough to fulfill demand of the markets. To aggregate productions from farmers it is important that they are given a unified platform to organize the value chain of mushroom farming and satisfy the demand of market. FST proposes to organize the farmers under a producer organization to address issues of backward and forward linkages. FST would handhold the organisation of mushroom farmers till the time they are able to sustainable stand in their own feet to run their business. Organization proposes creation of start-up corpus fund under for internally lending amongst its members to fulfill small requirements working capital needs of the farmers.
- Mobilization of women mushroom growers.
- Meeting on formation of a community organisation of the mushroom growers.
- Skill development of selected leaders on group management aspects in smooth functioning of the collective.
- Village level meeting in each village with the women farmers.
- Skill development training of farmers on variations of mushroom cultivation such as on oyster mushroom cultivation, mushroom pickle, mushroom papad etc.
- The training package shall cover topics such as selection of paddy straw, boiling, cutting, packing, putting spawn in packets, watering, treatment etc.
- Exposure visit for the selected mushroom farmers
- Spawn support for the mushroom growers groups. (One time support)
- Leverage support from government agencies mainly Krishi Vigyan Kendra and State Rural Development Institute, Assam Rural Livelihood Mission etc.
In implementing the project, FST will follow the principles of Community Philanthropy. We will strictly adhere to 3 points – Assets, Capacity and Trust. These three will be pillars on which the groups and institution will be formed. We will ensure that project participants collect their own resources both in kind and cash and contribute for the project. FST will be an enabler in the entire process.
- Establishment of one women community organisation of mushroom growers.
- 400 women started mushroom cultivation in an improved manner.
- 400 families have additional source of earning.
- Increase of family income per month by Rs.3000/- per 100 mushroom cylinders at minimum.
- Mushroom cultivation on commercial lines by women farmers.
- Empowering women to become independent and lead a dignified life afterwards.
Sustainability: Good leaders and community organisations are the key to the sustainability of the project. The project will produce emphatic women leaders and they are agents of change. We hope that they will continue the work. Community organisations are always considered as vital cog of sustainability. We will nurture community organisations and develop the capacity to address the issues.
Knowledge is another key instrument of change. The project will impart information to the community. Knowledge once acquired is not easily lost and we will ensure that community usage it. There is a direct relationship among good leaders, community organisations and knowledge. These three elements will ensure the sustainability.
Two years is a less of time to bring lasting changes in any community. Our emphasis is on bringing qualitative change like attitudes, motivation, behaviour etc of the community. Additionally knowledge building process requires times.
In the month of January, the production and sale of mushroom from all the villages continued and the total production for the season from November to February was arrived at 1282kgs and total amount received by the women mushroom growers from the season arrived at 141,640 INR. Taking into consideration the frequent financial transactions as well as the need to maintain proper accounts, a capacity building workshop for the community organizations were planned and executed in the month of February in association with the Finance Team of FST. Our women collective representatives also participated in a regional North-East Trade Facilitation Fair wherein they were exposed to various innovations and practices prevalent in the states in terms of sustainable livelihood practices.
Also, in the month of February, our community organizations began planning for the post mushroom cultivations season. They decided to engage in cultivation of Papaya, Lemon and Black pepper which can be seen as an alternate means of livelihood with their existing practice of paddy and vegetable cultivation during the mushroom off-season. However due to the pandemic of COVID 19 and its related lockdown across the country, we couldn’t carry on with the planned programs.
We plan to carry on with our activities once there are relaxations in lockdown and with due consideration of safety measures of social distancing and sanitization practices.
During this period of lockdown, understanding the plight of the daily wage labourers as well as the vulnerable families, FST engaged in relief measures in association with the community mobilizers and grassroot organization in the project villages. We were able to reach out to 120 families from the 5 villages of Baksa block with essential items such as rice, potatoes, pulses, vegetable oil, salt and hygiene materials such as soap, washing powder and disinfectant.