My Way: Sadi Ssali
AFTER driving long distance trucks for years, Sadi Ssali decided to retire into farming. His challenge, however, was deciding which farming enterprise to take up. Initially, he wanted to grow cereals and root crops. However, with the tiny piece of land he owned in Kivu
My Way: Sadi Ssali
AFTER driving long distance trucks for years, Sadi Ssali decided to retire into farming. His challenge, however, was deciding which farming enterprise to take up. Initially, he wanted to grow cereals and root crops. However, with the tiny piece of land he owned in Kivu village, Nsangi sub-county in Wakiso district, it was impossible.
â€œI needed a profitable business I could carry out from home, since I had spent most of my youthful years transporting cargo all over East Africa,â€ Ssali explains.
With advice from friends, Ssali finally zeroed in on oyster (bubaala) mushroom growing.
Since he lacked the knowledge, Ssali sought technical advice from Asenanth Byaruhanga, a seasoned mushroom farmer and the chairperson of Uganda Mushroom Association (UMA).
â€œByaruhanga trained and advised me on where to get inputs like cotton waste, spawn (seeds), plastic tarpauline, papyrus mats, construction poles, nails, drums and jerrycans, which are all necessary in mushroom growing,â€ he says.
To raise capital to finance the enterprise, Ssali sold off his salon car at sh4m. He started growing mushrooms in July, and within two months, he was already supplying his products to UMA.
â€œSince September, I have supplied them with 160kg and 12kg of fresh and dry mushrooms,â€ he says. Ssali says he sells a kilogram of fresh mushrooms at sh3,500 and kilogram of the dry ones at sh35,000.
Ten kilograms of fresh make a kilogram of dried mushroom.
Although he has been in it for only a short time, Ssali is sure he chose the right enterprise. â€œMushroom growing keeps you both physically and mentally busy,â€ Ssali adds.
Mushroom farming a developing enterprise in Uganda
Traditionally, people would pick mushrooms in forests and around anthills where conditions favoured their growth. Mushrooms were considered a delicacy, especially among the rich, because of their scarcity, unique flavour and exotic taste.
Today, a number of farmers in Uganda have taken up the trade to meet the growing demand as more people discover their medicinal value, protein and other nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
To most farmers, however, mushroom growing is an enterprise shrouded in mystery. Some still believe mushrooms are wild plants that cannot be grown under domestic conditions.
From their experience, both Ssali and his mentor Byaruhanga agree that mushroom growing can be a profitable enterprise, as it requires small space and no fertilisers to grow. Mushroom growing can be done indoors in a simple house structure.
What one needs to start
Ssali says it takes relatively small capital input of about sh1.5m to get into mushroom growing.
-One needs a packet of black polythene bags (size 22). A packet costs sh3, 000 and contains 50 pieces.
-During the stocking, cotton waste and 5kg of building lime are mixed with lime in water and shared out in two drums. Byaruhanga supplies cotton waste, which she buys from Busunju and Kasese ginneries, to UMA members.
-A cotton waste sack weighs 70kg and can be bought at sh15,000. A bag can make 25 gardens.
-The mushroom spawn (seeds) pack costs sh2,000, according to Byaruhanga.
Mushrooms grow fast; they take two weeks to harvest. Oyster mushrooms are the most commonly grown mushrooms in Uganda.
Ssali says oyster mushrooms are usually grown on pasteurised substrates. Substrate is material like sawdust, waste cotton on which mushrooms grow. (Pasteurising kills pests, rodents and nematodes which could attack growing mushrooms). The pasteurised substrates are packed in plastic bags and compressed. After pasteurisation, holes are made on the plastic bags. This is to allow aeration.
Currently, Ssali has 360 gardens in the growing room and 300 gardens in the incubator. The garden house has a capacity of 1,000 gardens. Every drum makes 60 gardens
Each of Ssaliâ€™s 2kg-mushroom gardens. (lumps) yield about 15 times (5kg fresh mushroom each time) within six months before he disposes of them, depending on environmental conditions.
Byaruhanga says low yields result from poor strains used to prepare spawns, unsuitable substrate, wrong environment like temperature, moisture and relative humidity, pests and diseases.
Daily observations should be made to ensure that the temperature and humidity are at the right levels and also see if mushrooms are beginning to form. Insufficiency of either of the above conditions will affect growth.
When stalks begin to come out, plenty of light should be allowed into the cropping room. The light induces the stalks of oyster mushrooms to form caps known as mushroom fruit bodies.
Formation of the fruit bodies requires appropriate temperatures (250 to 280C), sufficient ventilation, light, moisture and relative humidity 80% to 90%.
Misting (spraying of the substrate with water) is required. This should be done using cool boiled water. Byaruhanga, however, says the misting must not be excessive because it affects the aeration, thus hampering growth.
Expended metal or wire-mesh and wire gauze should be used on the windows to keep out rats and flies from the cropping house.
Each mature mushroom is grasped by the stalk, gently twisted and pulled with clean hands. Normally, three flushes of mushroom are harvested on each lump, with the second flush having more mushrooms than the first and the third flush.
After the process, the bags with their spent substrate should be removed from the cropping room and cleaned. The substrate can be used as garden manure or as animal feeds.
Mushrooms can be consumed fresh or preserved by drying, canning or pickling in vinegar.
Byaruhanga says mushrooms can be harvested in three segments; mushroom spawning, making substrate lumps (gardens) and mushroom growing. She sells one bottle of spawn at sh1,000, which is used to plant one lump or garden.
Each of her gardens weighs 5kg of cotton husks substrate. Ssali says his profits are recycled back into mushroom expansion. He is sure of getting back his initial capital at the end of December.
Ssali says he has been approached by companies which need supplies of fresh and dry mushrooms 60 to 70kg per day but he does not have the capacity yet to meet the demand.
By May next year, Sali hopes to produce 30 to 40kg daily. â€œWhen I add mushrooms from my out-growers, I should be able to produce 70kg daily,â€ Ssali projects.
Ssali says he is training someone to take on mushroom growing while he is away.
â€œI am willing to train more people. They pay me after they have grasped techniques,â€ he says.
UMA currently has about 300 members, 80% of whom are women from Hoima, Mukono, Kampala, Mpigi, Wakiso, Mbarara, Kasese and Tororo districts.
Byaruhanga says she currently the association is faced with what he calls â€˜unhealthy price competitionâ€™.
â€œSome of our members lure our customers with very low prices,â€ she says
Facts about mushrooms
Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They were reclassified in the 1960s into the separate kingdom of fungi. The part of the fungus that we see is only the â€œfruitâ€ of the organism. The living body of the fungus is a mycelium made out of a web of tiny filaments called hyphae.
The mycelium is usually hidden in the soil, in wood, or another food source like bread. All mushrooms are fungi but not all fungi are mushrooms. The fungi kingdom also includes yeasts, slime, molds and rusts.
There are an estimated 1.5 to two million species of fungi on earth, of which only about 80,000 have been properly identified.
In some ways, mushrooms are more closely related to animals than plants. Like humans, mushrooms take in oxygen for their digestion and metabolism and â€œexhaleâ€ carbon dioxide as a waste product. Fungal proteins are similar in many ways to animal proteins.
Hieroglyphics discovered in the tombs of the pharaohs hint that the ancient Egyptians believed mushroom were â€œthe plant of immortality.â€ The mushroomâ€™s distinct flavour so intoxicated these demi-gods that they decreed mushrooms to be food for royalty alone, and prohibited any commoner from handling the delicacies.
Elsewhere, some Amazon tribes in South America have one word for both meat and mushrooms â€” they consider mushrooms as equivalent to meat in nutritive value.
Early Romans referred to mushrooms as the â€œfood of the gods.â€
In many parts of Uganda, mushrooms have for long been perceived to have little or no nutritional food value; they were dubbed a poor manâ€™s meal.
That belief though has now changed and, mushroom farming is taking up an important place as a source of family income.
Mushrooms have a relatively high protein content and contain virtually no fat or cholesterol.
They contain high amounts of vitamins and mineral salts. For example, mushrooms are a great source of niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and selenium â€” nutrients often lacking in our highly processed food diets. They are low in calories and contain antioxidants to support a strong immune system. In addition, mushrooms are low in sodium and a good source of fibre and vitamins B1, B2 and D.
Health and medicinal importance
Mushrooms have been successfully used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat different types of ailments.
Western science and medicine are finally beginning to recognise and utilise some of the medicinally active compounds in mushrooms.
Penicillin and streptomycin are some of the potent antibiotics derived from fungi. New classes of antibacterial and antiviral agents continue to be discovered in the fungal family.
Mushrooms are considered â€œimmuno-modulatorsâ€. When consumed, bioactive compounds in mushrooms have strong effects on our immune system. The effect can either be to boost a weak immune system that is compromised in its ability to fight infections, or weaken a strong but misdirected immune system that is causing auto-immune disorders such as allergies, arthritis, asthma and other disorders. This modulation of immune function in either direction is confounding to Western medicine and pharmacological paradigms which are accustomed to medicines that always â€œpushâ€ in one direction.
Like humans, mushrooms can produce Vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight and Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV light is utilised in the production of these mushrooms.
Ssali quit long distance truck driving to grow mushrooms