Some maize and tobacco farmers in Mchinji are now growing mushroom, which they say is earning them more money.
Fifty farmers are growing and selling mushroom under a farmer-to-farmer programme implemented by Cultivate New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).
CNFA country director Rodrick Chirambo said mushroom is one of the crops with a ready market and offers good prices.
“There is huge demand for mushroom in the country as well as abroad and our target is to boost production to meet this demand and improve farmers’ lives,” he said at the close of a seven-month training for mushroom production and marketing at Naomi Mushroom Farm in the district.
“At first, we identified lack of expertise as a major problem among the farmers, so we engaged an expert from the United States of America to train them and production has improved,” he said.
National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Nasme) executive director William Mwale said mushroom fetches a minimum of K2 000 per kilogramme (kg) in urban areas and K1 500 per kg in rural areas.
“These farmgate prices are far much higher than those of other farm produce, so it is up to the farmer to decide how much they want to produce, but one thing for sure is that there is a ready market which we are not even satisfying,” he said.
Mwale said farmers now bring their mushroom to the farm and record the weight. When the product is sold, they are paid according to the quantity delivered.
One of the beneficiaries, Patricia Chimphaninji, said mushroom farming has transformed lives of farmers in the district and that many of them are planning to increase production.
She said the raw materials used to produce mushroom are sourced locally; hence, not requiring huge capital investment. n