A group of jobless youths, who started a project with less than Sh100,000 ten years ago, are harvesting almost Sh4 million a month from the sale of mushrooms, which are fast becoming a nutritional delicacy for the health conscious population.
Paul Kisiangani, the director of Galaxy Youth Group, said the 32 members saw the self-employment opportunity in 2005, when they contributed and invested Sh80,000.
Eleven years later, the group has, however, reduced to 15 after members became engaged elsewhere with school and jobs.
“The market was low at the start, but we kept pressing because we knew the potential in the delicacy. Today, Galaxy Youth Group is a household name in the leading supermarkets in the country and homes of oyster mushroom lovers,” he said.
Financial benefits of mushrooms
The group harvests at least 1.5 tonnes of oyster mushrooms every month from the eight propagation houses, which they sell as dry or fresh vegetable.
One kilogramme of dry mushroom is sold at Sh2,600 while a similar fresh amount fetches Sh300. If the 1.5 tonnes are sold after drying, they rake in a gross income of Sh3.9 million while fresh one bring in Sh450,000.
“It takes Sh110 to produce one kilogramme of fresh mushrooms. At least Sh1,100 is required to produce one kilo of dry mushroom. The dry mushroom is packed into 50 grammes for easy selling. But packing into kilos on special orders is also available,” Kisiangani said.
This means that the group spends Sh1.65 million in producing 1.5 tonnes of dry mushroom, leaving them with a net profit of Sh2.25 million.
On the other hand, Sh165,000 is spent in producing fresh mushrooms, which leaves them with a net income of Sh285,000.
Why mushroom farming
He attributes their success to the demand of consumption, quick maturity of the crop as well as the cheap requirements in production.
Mushrooms are propagated on agricultural wastes such as molasses, weeds, maize cobs, green leaves among others.
“The market is expanding because mushrooms are sources of proteins and other nutrients for health conscious population. The growing section of vegetarians is pushing the roof of production high,” said Kisiangani.
This fungus is rich in potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorous as well as proteins. Calcium and phosphorus are key in strong bone and teeth formation while sodium and potassium help in response and coordination process. Deficiency of the minerals leads to health challenges like goiter in the case of sodium.
Because of the supplement reasons, the delicacy is consumed as medicine.
The group also grinds the mushroom into powder, with the smallest package of 50 grammes fetching Sh150 while 300 grammes of fresh oyster cost Sh100.
Emmanuel Wasike, a group member who was selling the produce during the Kakamega County Agricultural Society of Kenya Show, said the drying helps them reach markets like Mombasa, which is more than 860 kilometres from Western.
It also helps in prolonging the shelf-life for the sellers and consumers.
Kisiangani, who is an Egerton University graduate, founded the group after a fruitless search for a job.
He can be reached on +254722935564