¡°If you are thinking one year ahead, pant a seed;
If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree;
If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people¡±
(Anonymous Chinese poet, 400 B.C.)
Africa is blessed with enviably rich biodiversity in
her tropical rainforests, savanna woodlands and grasslands, and
also in her dryland ecosystems. Yet, amidst this richness, over
50% of her inhabitants continue to live in a sea of lamentable poverty
and its people continue to suffer from malnutrition generally, and
inadequate intake of proteins in particular. Over two-thirds of
Africa¡¯s people derive their livelihoods from agriculture and pastoralism.
Unfortunately, however, agricultural productivity in some of their
farmlands, primarily located in rural areas, is very low due to
low rainfall, low soil fertility, and crop damage from a wide spectrum
of crop pests.
Africa¡¯s agricultural crop production systems
generate large quantities of crop residues. More than 70% of the
biomass of these crop residues could be put to new uses as raw materials
for a wide range of new value-added products. But these are often
discarded as waste. Africa¡¯s various industrial activities similarly
generate large quantities of waste products. Some of these are usable
as raw materials for new value-added products. But these too are
discarded as waste. One particularly effective form of bioconversion
biotechnology is mushroom farming for food, and also for the production
of mushroom derived substances. Mushrooms are, indeed, a source
of high quality protein, which can be produced with great biological
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
In an effort to assist African Governments to
attain sustainable human development through knowledge-based innovations
and initiatives that maximally utilize the continent¡¯s rich biodiversity,
UNDP is supporting a Regional Project (RAF/99/021) titled:¡± Sustainable
human development from Africa¡¯s biodiversity¡±, which offers an opportunity
to achieve sustainable human development by catalyzing full utilization
of Africa¡¯s biodiversity and other natural resources. Within the
broad framework of the Regional Project, new strategies have been
initiated on how to develop Africa differently on the basis her
rich biodiversity. These strategies show tremendous promise as catalysts
for sustainable environmental management; as catalysts for the creation
of many new job opportunities, especially in disadvantaged rural
and peri-urban communities, amongst women and the youth; and also
as catalysts for poverty reduction. Eight selected African countries
are participating in the UNDP-funded Regional Project RAF/99/021.
These countries are Lestho, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, Swaziland,
Tanzania, The Gambia, and Zambia.
Africa generates huge quantities of organic waste materials
annually through the activities of her agricultural, forest and
food processing industries. These wastes are conceived as a negative
factor in both the industrial and agricultural settings, since they
generate adverse environmental effects related to their disposal.
Yet, with the application of appropriate bioconversion technologies,
they should be viewed as a potentially valuable resource. One particularly
effective form of bioconversion is the use of organic biomass wastes
as substrates for the production of mushrooms and mushroom products.
Mushrooms can be cultivated on a wide variety of organic wastes:
wastes from wild grass, cereal straw, maize cobs, cotton crop residues,
forest sawdust; coffee bean residues, cashew-nut residues, sugar
cane bagasse, banana leaves, brewery wastes, water hyacinth biomass,
etc¡ The spent substrate residues left after mushroom harvesting
are also value. They can be used as livestock feed supplements,
as soil conditioners, or as feed for earthworm farming ventures.
Thus the utilizations of these materials for innovations such as
mushroom cultivation, can help in solving problems of global importance
such as resource recovery, waste utilization, and better environmental
There is also a rapidly growing interest in mushroom
products as a source of high value dietary supplements, which have
great potential for therapeutic applications. Regular intake of
some mushrooms and mushroom products is known to enhance the immune
responses of the human body, thereby increasing our resistance to
disease, and, in some cases, may cause regression of a disease state.
Mushroom farming was identified as one of the highest priority activities
due to the following factors:
grow relatively fast. Their cultivation can thus generate a
visible impact within a few months.
¡ô Mushrooms are nutritious and good health promoters. They are
rich in protein; they contain all the essential amino acids
needed in human diet; they are virtually cholesterol-free, and
are also very rich in vitamins. Additionally, it is increasingly
being realized that many species of mushrooms are very effective
in boosting the body¡¯s immune systems. This is of crucial importance
in Africa, given the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic prevailing
on the continent.
¡ô Africa¡¯s indigenous mushrooms, which have hardy been researched,
documented, or preserved in mushroom ¡°seed¡± banks (culture collections),
will, in future, be vigorously hunted by our humankind, as sources
of edible products, as highly marketable health food products,
as traditional medicinal substances, and as sources of high-value
¡ô Since there are big chances of many of Africa¡¯s indigenous
mushroom species getting to extinction through deforestation,
as the people desperately look for more agricultural lands,
and as they cut down trees for charcoal, firewood, and for other
purposes, R&D activities on mushroom farming, and on the
need to preserve Africa¡¯s indigenous mushroom species, must
¡ô Mushrooms are highly treasured in Africa¡¯s village communities,
since they start growing soon after the first rains, and become
very handy vegetables long before the planted agricultural crops
are ready for harvesting.
¡ô The technologies involved in mushroom farming can easily be
assimilated by ordinary people Africa, if appropriately qualified
trainers are involved in disseminating the know-how.
TO BE ADDRESSED
The cultivation of mushrooms, particularly tropical
mushrooms, in tropical/subtropical countries, is still underdeveloped
in Africa. There are several reasons which may be directly or indirectly
related to the slow development of mushroom cultivation in tropical
Social factors: Mushrooms are usually eaten for their
culinary properties: providing flavouring and garnish for other
foods. Since the price of cultivated mushrooms is usually higher
than what the poor can afford, this may give one the impression
that mushrooms constitute a luxury food item. Through education,
training, and effective production methods, mushrooms can be made
affordable to ordinary citizens as well.
Lack of awareness: There is little public awareness on the enormity
of wealth that could be generated from mushrooms and mushroom products.
Research on tropical mushrooms is almost non-existent. Because of
lack of information on them, most Governments in Africa have not
yet established Mushroom Research Centres or Institutes.
Paucity of scientists with fundamental biological knowledge on Africa¡¯s
edible mushrooms: Knowledge on mushrooms that could be cultivated
in tropical regions is very meager indeed. Without such basic knowledge,
the development of any mushroom industry is very difficult, since
by nature, the cultivation of mushrooms, requires a very strong
regional focus, and local adaptation. One of the greatest needs
is thus the creation of national and regional laboratories/centres
for fundamental biological and applied technical research on edible
mushrooms in tropical/subtropical countries. And equally important
is the need for highly motivated scientists who will be attracted
to work in these laboratories/centres.
Other problems: There are several problems, such as lack of institutional
facility, lack of appropriate equipment, inadequate regional cooperation,
and lack of organized marketing strategies. In practice, due to
the prevailing hot and humid climates, the shelf life period of
mushrooms is relatively short. The preparation and preservation
of pure mushroom cultures is also a common problem to mushroom growers.
This is due to the fact that the vast majority of the people in
the communities do not have basic knowledge in microbiological techniques
of aseptic handling.
The ultimate goal and objective is to promote Africa¡¯s presence
in the world¡¯s mushroom production pie; to empower Africa¡¯s rural
and peri-urban communities with technologies on the cultivation
of edible, nutritious, and medicinal mushrooms in Africa¡¯s various
climatic zones; to promote human health through regular use of edible
mushrooms, including species containing natural products which promote
the body¡¯s immunoresponse systems; and to alleviate poverty through
marketing the mushrooms that are harvested from the villagers¡¯ farms.
Continued research and development (R&D) activities are essential
for any progressive industry. The new findings on mushroom natural
products are expected to catalyse the design of new R&D programmes
for strain selection. The long-term value and the significance of
such research lies in the potential to improve the bioconversion
of lignocellulosic substrates by various mushrooms with high biological
efficiency, and improving mushroom quality. In addition, the knowledge
gained from one particular mushroom will be of relevance to the
cultivation of other mushrooms, in particular those that are currently
being used as sources of pharmaceutically useful metabolites and
food additives. In overall practical terms, a better understanding
of the processes involved in the bioconversion of organic wastes
by edible and medicinal mushrooms, has far reaching economic, social,
and environmental implications.
Although, generally, the climate in tropical regions is warm, it
is variable according to seasonal changes, and also according to
differences in altitude. By choosing the right species, edible mushrooms
can be cultivated in the various tropical climate types. The techniques
used in the cultivation of mushrooms can be low-tech, as is the
case in the rural farming of Volvariella and Pleurotus mushrooms
in China, or highly industrialized, as is the case with the production
of Agaricus and Lentinula, in some urban areas.
The great value of edible mushrooms lies in their ability
to convert various waste materials into valued food products. Indeed,
the growing of edible mushrooms has the potential of becoming a
significant economic activity for generating a cheap source of good
protein in many rural areas in these regions. The techniques used
in the cultivation of the warm temperature mushrooms are also comparatively
simpler than those used for the cold temperature mushrooms. In the
less developed countries, emphasis should be placed on direct and
simple methodologies that can easily be understood and quickly applied
by rural people. However, mushroom scientists should regularly assess
the scientific rationale for the procedures developed, and also
for the technologies used, with a view to constantly improving them.
Mushroom cultivation involves a wide range of technologies.
The choice of these technologies depends partly upon the available
substrates. But more importantly, it also depends upon the provision
of capital for equipment required to facilitate the implementation
of the various steps involved. Where no or limited capital is available,
methods that require simple equipment are usually used. Most of
these low cost methods, which are suitable for rural communities,
are labour intensive, and could lead to profitable cottage industries.
These industries have the potential of providing employment opportunities
in both peri-urban and rural areas.
The most significant aspect of mushroom cultivation,
if managed properly, is to create a zero emission situation (involving
adjusting and/or maintaining a dynamic balance within the ecosystem
by turning waste into something useful in a sustainable manner).
In addition, mushroom-based farming industry can provide gainful
employment to the youth and to rural women. The cultivation and
development of edible and medicinal mushrooms has already had a
significant impact on food, human health, and social economics,
at national and regional levels, during the past three decades.
It is predicted that this impact will continue to increase in the
21st Century. Since mushrooms, like all other fungi, lack chlorophyll,
and since their application towards promoting food supply, cleaning
up the environment, and enhancing human health quality and socio-economic
development, are not directly driven by photosynthesis, their engagement
can be considered as a ¡°non-green revolution¡±. In summary, the merits
of promoting mushroom cultivation for Africa¡¯s sustainable socio-economic
development, are as follows:
can convert lignocellulosic waste materials into a wide diversity
¡ô Mushrooms are relatively fast growing organisms;
¡ô Mushroom cultivation is labour intensive;
¡ô While land availability usually a limiting factor in most
types of primary agricultural production, mushroom cultivation
requires relatively little space;
¡ô Mushrooms have been accepted as human food since times immemorial;
¡ô Edible mushrooms should be treated as healthy vegetables;
¡ô In view of their pleasing flavor, their high protein, and
their tonic and medicinal values, mushrooms, no doubt, represent
one of the world¡¯s greatest untapped nutritious and palatable
food resources of the future.
|1. A study on indigenous
mushrooms of Africa. Documentation of edible, medicinal and
poisonous mushrooms, and preservation of the genetic resources.
||Collecting and identifying wild mushrooms
in the different agro-climatic zones in the region.Developing
a mushroom herbarium and involving African mycologists and Herbaria
and experts from abroad.Ethnomycological studies made on important
indigenous mushrooms. Production of mushroom books and other
||The Project Management Unit (PMU)
of the UNDP/UNOPES Regional Project for Africa (RAF/99/021)
coordinates appropriate mushroom systematics research and development
(R&D)A mushroom herbarium in Africa that preserves the collected
mushroom specimens.Viable cultures of important and endangered
mushroom species deposited in the mushroom culture collection
at the University of Namibia, for preservation of the genetic
|2. Mushroom culture banks
and spawn centres to be established. Field trial programmes
to be established. Mushroom cultivation technology guide manual
and information bulletins to be produced and distributed. At
least 1000 people at the grassroots level to be engaged in the
cultivation and processing of mushroom in each participating
country within the first three years of the project.
||Identifying and strengthening
institutions to serve as mushroom culture banks.
Establishing zero waste based mushroom production research and
Providing scientific training to staff and field support and
Drawing up physical plans and identifying and procuring required
|Project Director, PMU staff,
UNDP country offices, and Governments of participating countries:
PMU has already started the work of developing the mushroom
culture bank, which will supply high quality cultures to all
The development of mushroom spawn centers in each country will
begin during 2002.
The training of mushroom scientists in Africa has already commenced
More advanced scientific training to national scientists who
will promote mushroom farming initiatives in the respective
countries undertaken in Namibia during 2002.
Dishursement of funds for procurement of materials for initating
mushroom farming initiatives in participating countries was
effected during 2001.
|3. Target advocacy materials
in the form of papers, presentations, publicity materials, and
booklets prepared to promote mushroom cultivation technologies.
||Establishing a multi-disciplinary
team of experts to prepare papers and publicity materials. Arranging
for peer review of materials produced, and finalizing and publishing
||Project Director, Programme Advisor,
PMU and UNDP country offices.
|4. Workshops, seminars
and consultations held for key stakeholders in the participating
countries. Mushroom production and cultivation technology and
vision seen as an important instrument for national development
and poverty alleviation
||Arranging national and regional workshops
and seminars. This component of the project will involve close
collaboration with PMU.
||Project Director, Programme Advisor,
|5. Project briefs and
implementation plans to be further developed by all stakeholders.
National action plans covering short and medium term activities
formulated. Country Coordination Task Forces operational.
||Setting up country assessment
teams undertaking field country missions. Conducting consultations,
training and workshops. Preparing project activities
Guiding Task Forces in project implementation. Evaluating research
activities to be undertaken.
|Project Director, PMU staff,
UNDP country offices, and consultants.
Consultations by e-mail were also made with teams in all participating
countries. During the second half of 2002 and beyond, this will
be facilitated by the development of a Discussion Board at the
project¡¯s website (www.unam.na/zeri).
A photo gallery of common edible and medicinal mushrooms will
also be developed at the project¡¯s website to facilitate mushroom
The growth of mushroom production and consumption, which has occurred
worldwide over the last two decades, reflects a changing attitude
on this foodstuff, which was considered, at best, an expensive luxury.
Also in the last two decades, there has been a gradual shift in
the geographical distribution of production countries, notably from
developed countries to less developed countries in Asia. The introduction
of mushroom cultivation in Africa, as envisaged in this project,
should be seen as a revolution in progress. In view of the potential
of mushroom development in low-income countries, increased world
production of both mushrooms and their derivatives will be inevitable.
More specifically, by the end of the project period:
¡ô Rural and peri-urban communities in Africa will have assimilated
technologies on mushroom farming, and will have begun to produce
both edible and medicinal mushrooms for sale in local markets.
¡ô Family incomes in the mushroom farming communities will have begun
to show a significant increase, since mushrooms grow fast. Thus
permitting several crops to be raised in a year, especially in the
¡ô The health status of the people in the communities will have improved
significantly, since mushrooms are healthy vegetables (rich in protein,
in vitamins, in essential inorganic mineral elements; low in cholesterol
and low in fat; and since some contain potent immunoresponse promoting
¡ô Community education on the biological, ecological, and economic
importance of mushrooms will have been promoted.
¡ô The penetration of mushrooms cultivated in Africa into global
markets, will have begun. Mushroom production for export will be
promoted through the establishment of Regional Mushroom Culture
banks which will serve as mushroom culture supply centres to potential
entrepreneurs. Through the project, a greater degree of regional
and international collaboration, both for research and marketing,
will be achieved.
¡ô E-commerce IT technologies will also be developed and promoted.
REPORTING AND MONITORING INDICATORS
¡ô For Project Reporting arrangements, we shall report as per guidelines
stipulated by the International Donor Agencies who will support
¡ô On auditing arrangements, this will be done following UNDP Procedures,
since this project activity is being undertaken as a complementary
activity linked with the UNDP/UNOPS Regional Activity RAF/99/021.
Procedures that will be stipulated by the supporting donor agencies
will also be adhered to.
¡ô The Director of the UNDP/UNOPS Regional Project for Africa (RAF/99/021)
will be the over-all Director of the Project. He will be assisted
in that role by other staff at the Project Management Unit (PMU),
especially by the Project Senior Programme Adviser and the Programme
Officer, who is an accomplished mushroom scientist.
¡ô The day-to-day implementation will be under hands of scientists
in the respective countries, some of whom will work full-time from
the project fund, and who will be inter-lined with the Project Management
Unit in Windhoek.
¡ô Additional experts (consultants) will be recruited for short-term
periods, as the need arises.
The components of the funding support needed to ensure the implementation
of the project will be as follows:
¡ô Construction of low-cost mushroom houses, which will be used as
a model for replication in various African countries participating
in the Regional Project at appropriate sites in the countries of
¡ô Construction of a mushroom farmhouse at the University of Namibia
and a full-fledged mushroom and culture laboratory, which, will
be used for training potential, mushroom farmers amongst Namibia¡¯s
peri-urban communities, and also selected young mushroom scientists
from other countries. This will complement the infrastructure already
in place at the University¡¯s Faculty of Agriculture and Natural
¡ô Construction of a mushroom house and appropriate components at
an appropriate site at the Ogongo Campus of the University¡¯s Faculty
of Agriculture, located in Norther Namibia, to be used for training
potential mushroom farmers in Namibia¡¯srural village communities,
and also selected candidates from other countries. This will be
representative of tropical agro-ecological zones.
¡ô Construction of a mushroom house at Henties Bay, along the Namibian
coast, experiencing coll temperatures. This will be used for training
mushroom farmers in Namibia¡¯s coastal rural village communities.
This will be representative of cool temperature agro-ecological
zones. The experience gained in Namibia will be replicated in other
countries participating in the Regional Project, but modified in
accordance with local circumstances in those countries.
¡ô Construction of mushroom houses in each participating country,
based on experience gained from the co-ordinating country (Namibia).
¡ô Identification and evaluation of agricultural crop residues, and
securing organic industrial wastes which will serve as substrates
for the cultivation of the selected mushroom species.
¡ô Purchase of relevant equipment, including humidifiers, autoclaves,
and various reagents needed in the preparation of mushroom cultures,
cultivation of mushroom spawn.
¡ô Documentation of indigenous mushroom and preservation of the genetic
resource. Purchase of field equipment and facilities for study,
documentation and preservation of wild mushroom of Africa.
¡ô Recruitment of technicians, one for each farming locality, for
helping to maintain the mushroom cultures, and also to supply mushroom
cultures to interested farmers in the community.
¡ô Recruitment of trained mycologists and mushroom scientists, who
will work full-time on the management and implementation of the
mushroom farming activity and documentation f indigenous mushroom
biota of the region. The scientists will be seconded from Government
to the Mushroom Farming Project site. The scientists will be linked,
via the Internet, with the Regional Coordinating Office within the
framework of the UNDP/UNOPS Project RAF/99/201, based at the University
of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia.
¡ô Extension work to sensitize the farmers, organizing workshops
on mushroom farming technology dissemination and indigenous mushroom
development, and also on how to add value to economically promising
mushrooms in each participating country. The workshops will be attended
by promising farmers who will be identified by national leaders
in the participating countries.
¡ô Translation of mushroom farming materials and booklets into major
languages used in Africa (i.e. Kiswahili, and other major Africa
languages). Annual Report compilation and dissemination to donors
and all stakeholders.
It is envisaged that the project
will last three years during its initial phase. It is envisaged
that by the end of the period, the project will be sustained through
public private partnership arrangements, and also through further
support from donors.