JAT Investments has trained almost 144 women and youths with skills in mushroom production to improve the livelihoods of the community around Chitseka in the area of Traditional Authority Mazengera in Lilongwe.
The company’s Operations Director, Temwani Gunda, said they were concerned with the vulnerability of women and youths due to socio-economic shocks leading to poverty.
“We came up with an idea to empower them with skills on how to make mushrooms and sell them so that they become self-sufficient and at the same time overcome the economic challenges,” she said.
With the help of the company, she said, they created clubs to improve capacity of the product as the demand for mushrooms continues to rise on the market.
Gunda explained that the company grouped them into clubs comprising both men and women who expressed interest to venture into mushroom business as a group.
Currently, there are seven clubs who are doing much better in mushroom farming.
“We send technical experts to impart skills on them. We advise them to construct temporary shelters where mushrooms are grown even on a small land,” Gunda said.
She said the company also provides spawns, both Button and Oyster mushroom seeds to the clubs because the seeds cannot be found locally and are imported from South Africa or Kenya.
Gunda said the company also sells compost manure so that their mushroom can be grown on good soils to maximize their product.
JAT investments buy from the clubs the mushroom which they have produced. “We get the market on their behalf and give them their money.”
The company has enough capacity to keep all the mushrooms coming in from the clubs as it has increased the houses from two rooms to now 12 rooms with good temperature favorable for mushroom Gunda explained.
Mushroom is a perishable product and cannot be kept anyhow for fear of losing market.
Gunda said her company applied for Growth Accelerator Challenge and was privileged to get a $40,000 which was used to construct an additional house, bought solar power so that they can have electricity throughout for cooling the rooms.
“We have enough space to receive as much mushroom as possible and the temperatures are good because we have reliable power from solar energy which was acquired through the grant.” She said.
In addition, the company has procured a packaging machine from China and a composed making machine from India.
One of the club’s secretary, Esnart Akimu from Lakimu Club in Chiseka said the trainings and other skills received from the company benefited the club a lot as they can now produce mushroom and sell.
“We have seen benefits in mushroom production as we have enough money now to share as a club,” she observed.
Akimu said they received their training in December, 2021 and started shelter construction and other logistics for mushroom farming.
“We planted for trial in January then planted again in mid June and harvested after two weeks, we got 6.5kilograms, then 22.6kg,” she said.
She said the club is now harvesting in large quantities. “We have K350,000 in our account and we are anticipating the figure to increase by December this year when we are expecting to share the money.
Not only for money, the club members are benefiting nutritionally as the vegetable has high nutrition values, Akimu said.
She said they are planning to increase the shelter from one to at least three shelters to produce more mushroom for more money.
However, the club has nine members hoping for others to join in future because they will see benefits through which the members who have joined the club are having.
Akimu therefore commended the company for coming in to their rescue to improve their livelihoods.
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