This project supported by KOPIA Zimbabwe Centre is focused on improving the food access and nutritional status of poor rural and urban families through domestication of indigenous/wild edible mushrooms in Zimbabwe. Scientifically, there has been little attempt to domesticate indigenous edible species of mushrooms in the country. Wild edible mushrooms offer potential for cultivation and are an under-exploited income source for (particularly) women, who are the main collectors and growers of mushrooms.
Since time in memorial, wild edible mushroom species: nhedzi, chihombiro, Nzeve, tsvuke just to mention but a few have been considered as a special food delicacy. Scientific research has shown that wild edible mushroom have important nutritional, medical, biotechnological properties and environmental applications. They are low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol, while rich in protein, carbohydrate, fiber and minerals. They contain essential amino acids and water-soluble vitamins (including riboflavin, biotin and thiamine). These nutritional properties make them health promoting foods. The demand for wild edible mushrooms is increasingly high both at local scale and abroad. The major limitation is seasonality which affects availability.
The development of domestic mushroom production technologies will not only provide a nutritious food all year round for households but provides capacity for income generation as mushrooms can be sold for cash to purchase a range of other foods a that can sustain livelihoods at household level. Production of wild edible mushrooms will also diversify and lessen devastating effects of land and soil exhaustion. About 50-60% of households in rural and (those surrounding the miombo) forested areas (associated with wild edible mushrooms) across the country seasonally consume indigenous mushrooms, contributing to household nutrition and incomes.
This project is aimed at developing and capacitating smallholder farmers with sustainable methods of cultivation and value addition of indigenous or wild edible mushrooms. The team of scientists at SIRDC in partnership with KOPIA are working with local communities to tap on indigenous knowledge and understand natural habitat environments where farmers have rationally been harvesting the mushrooms. This information is being consolidated into scientific research to generate robust production methods.
The Korea Program for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology(KOPIA)-SIRDC mushroom project conducted a baseline survey in 2019. The target population for the survey comprised of mushroom were hunters/gatherers. The survey was conducted in Goromonzi, Wedza, Mhondoro, Rusape and Seke. The baseline survey adopted the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods of social enquiry to facilitate both technology and socio-economic analysis and was carried out in different phases.
Key informants interviews were conducted to fill gaps from the questionnaire survey and verify the results. The study involved a wide range of stakeholders from farmers, key village and ward leaders and government officials including AGRITEX officers. Focus Group Discussions (FDGs) were conducted with farmer groups and local leadership.
Enumerators, government extension officer and some of the survey participants in Goromonzi
A higher percentage of the households are female headed. Mhondoro, Rusape and Goromonzi had 78.6%, 58.3 and 70% household heads respectively. This has a positive impact on the project as decisions are being made easily and faster without the need to consult the male counterparts. From the above mushroom poisoning graph, poisoning is caused mainly by misidentification. This problem will be solved by development of good quality spawn and mushroom production through controlled environments. A training manual of identification and collection of the mushroom is going to be produced. The baseline survey results shows that more than 50 % of the households sell their mushrooms. The mushrooms are sold by the roadsides, local canteens and some sell door to door. This shows the potential of mushrooms to increase farmer income through mushrooms sell when the mushrooms are availed all year round. Farmers from Rusape had the highest average monthly household income of $260. Seke and Goromonzi had the least of $100. This is mainly because farmers in Rusape have a lot of land and are doing a lot of farming activities which give them more income. Rusape also had the highest average income from mushroom sells per season because of the same reason of abundant land. The availability of land in Rusape makes it easier to conduct the project as it may require land in the future for the cultivation of indigenous mushrooms. The least average years spent picking mushrooms was in Rusape 22 years and the highest was in Goromonzi which was 40 years. This implies that the farmers have a lot of experience in mushroom hunting hence indigenous knowledge which will be very helpful for the success of the project