Mushroom Cultivation Training In India Opens New Vistas for Afghan Farmers
Kabul, Afghanistan: Sherpur, a tony neighborhood in the heart of Kabul city and a busy urban sprawl is the most unlikely place to find a vegetable farm. In one of the obscure lanes here surrounded by plush apartment blocks that are home to a gaggle of foreigners, Haji Nisar Ahmad runs a mushroom research and cultivation centre. “Mushrooms can be grown anywhere, from a car-park to an attic, why even a goat shed would do just fine”, Nisar says with a chuckle.
Nisar is one of the first batch of trainees that attended a five-day training in mushroom cultivation in Solan, India. “I am grateful to Allah to have been a part of this training that changed the course of my farming destiny. From cultivation techniques to its livelihoods potential for the poor, what I learnt during the training has convinced me that this is what I want to grow and popularize for the rest of my life”, Nisar says.
Mushroom cultivation is a new initiative taken by the Ministry with a view to promote employment generation and livelihoods in the agriculture sector for the country. Mushroom has a tremendous potential because of its high demand and good nutritive value. In fact, mushroom cultivation has been identified as one of the priority activities for promotion, within the ministry.
- The five-day training in mushroom production technology that Nisar attended in India in 2012 was attended by 10 Afghan delegates comprising experts from the Ministry and independent agricultural researchers and entrepreneurs.
- Nisar says Rafa Organization, the voluntary agency that he is a part of has set out a 10-year vision, within which it will aim to set up and train a network of 200 poor families from each of the 34 provinces
- Nisar calculates that cultivating mushroom in each plastic bag requires an input cost of 60 Afghanis (nearly one USD) and yields a return of up to 350 to 400 Afghanis. “Even a small farmer can take home an income of up to 15,000 Afghanis or up to USD 300.
The five-day training in mushroom production technology that Nisar attended in India in 2012 was attended by 10 Afghan delegates comprising experts from the Ministry and independent agricultural researchers and entrepreneurs. The training was organized by the Directorate of Mushroom Research, Solan, India, as part of the agreed “Twinning” Memorandum of Understanding signed between the ministries of agriculture of Afghanistan and India. The initiative was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of its support to South-South Cooperation under the National Institution Building Programme (NIBP).
Expressing happiness with the initiation of mushroom cultivation in Afghanistan by Haji Nisar, the MAIL Minister HE Mohammad Asif Rahimi observed that this is a real success story.
Nisar says Rafa Organization, the voluntary agency that he is a part of has set out a 10-year vision, within which it will aim to set up and train a network of 200 poor families from each of the 34 provinces. The training will cover mushroom production and processing techniques that allow for value addition in the form of pickles, preserves, biscuits and dried mushrooms.
In his ‘basement farm’, where Haji Nisar is busy finalizing the proof of concept for cultivation of various kinds of mushrooms, from the various colored oyster mushrooms and the button mushrooms, it is the button mushrooms that seem to be emerging as the ones most suitable for large-scale farming in Afghanistan’s agro-climatic conditions.
The crop needs 80-90 per cent humidity and temperatures in the range of 25 degrees centigrade. From composting straw for growing mushroom, to final production in plastic bags, the crop can be harvesting on a monthly basis.
Nisar calculates that cultivating mushroom in each plastic bag requires an input cost of 60 Afghanis (nearly one USD) and yields a return of up to 350 to 400 Afghanis. “Even a small farmer can take home an income of up to 15,000 Afghanis or up to USD 300. And this without any need for farm land holdings, since you can grow mushrooms literally anywhere and everywhere”.
The training in India covered information regarding mushrooms that can be grown in Afghanistan; the nutritional and medicinal values of mushrooms and the need for extension services to popularize mushroom cultivation among the masses. The delegates were provided a detailed exposure into mushroom farming aspects such as culture preparation and spawn production technology, and compost preparation. As well as commonly encountered diseases and pests of mushrooms and their management.
Nisar is betting big on the livelihoods potential of mushrooms for Afghan citizens and as the Afghan food of tomorrow. Says Nisar, “My research tells me that this crop can be a game-changer in the domestic market as well internationally. Traders in the UAE that we have been in touch with have indicated that the market in Dubai alone can absorb up to 10 tons of mushroom supplies on a daily basis. We really want to be quick off the block to seize this opportunity”.
Since 2010, the National Institution Building Project (NIBP) has supported the organizational capacity enhancement of the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and select government ministries and entities at the national and sub-national levels in specified areas jointly determined with NIBP government partners. The Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) is the main government partner of the project.
Through the strategic placement of international Capacity Development Advisors (CDAs) and Afghan Capacity Development Officers (CDOs), NIBP aims to develop the institutional capacity of select ministries and strengthen the individual capacities of Afghan Civil Servants within the ministries and in several provinces. NIBP support to the government ministries and entities includes mentoring, coaching and advisory support provided to civil servants from the provincial level to the senior-most positions of the Ministries. The project facilitates training programs, workshops and exposure visits for civil servants and support for processes to develop national and institutional policies.