Graduates tackling poverty through mushroom growing

#Mike KARANGWA 25-09-2019

Jean Damascene Sakindi, is the brains behind a local firm known as Bioprotect Rwanda, a project based in Muhanga District which was formed to equip farmers with mushroom growing skills and also help in the fight against malnutrition and poverty in the district and surrounding areas.

Having graduated at University of Rwanda, College of Agriculture, he thought of ways of advancing his career and earning from agriculture. Though he tried venturing into coffee and horticulture, it didn’t yield like he had anticipated.

After carrying out research in mushroom farming, he was certain that it was a business that needed little capital to start, yet with it, one could milk much cash. In March 2018, he reached out to a friend, Emmanuel Musangamfura with the idea of starting their own company, an idea the latter bought.

Ever since then, the two have managed to get positive outcomes from farmers and have been able to create employment opportunities to a number of people in Muhanga.

Business Times’ Joan Mbabazi had a chat with Sakindi about the progress and purpose of his business.

Mr Jean Damascene Sakindi posing with mushroom

What was it like starting up this business ?
Since we were trained in agriculture, we were equipped with skills that we needed to transfer to the farmers to make a change in their lives. We started with training farmers in Muhanga and Ngororero districts. The company that started with few farmers has grown and at the moment we are working with up to 300 local farmers.

What exactly do you do ?
We provide farmers, cooperatives of women and jobless youth with mushroom seeds which they plant in small shaded tents and harvest after a period of between 10 days and three months.

It is our duty to advertise their products and connect them to different markets all over Kigali. Each of them is expected to produce between 20Kgs and 50 Kgs of mushrooms. We deliver the mushrooms to hotels, local markets, restaurants and individual homes.

What is the objective of this project ?
Our basic objective is focused on vulnerable people especially the elderly men and women, orphans unskilled youths in rural areas and girls who gave birth before completing school.

We aim at helping them grow mushrooms in the small spaces and yet earn from it to cater for their families and evading idleness among the youth.

One mushroom tube goes for about Rwf 470 for the company. One Kilogramme of mushrooms costs about Rwf 1,000 to Rwf 2,500.

We also wanted to contribute to the government’s goal of eradicating malnutrition as mushrooms are rich in vitamins, which help the body to get energy thus assisting in the formation of red blood cells. It is also rich in vitamin B which is important for a healthy brain.

Studies show that eating mushrooms can boost one’s immune system, help to prevent respiratory infections, improve digestion, achieve weight loss and help fight ailments.

Any challenges that you have encountered in the business ?
There is still insufficient capital which hinders us from expanding the project. Mushrooms are also often affected by insects and diseases but they are also perishable products which leads the farmers to losses at times.

What advice would you give to someone that would like to start up a mushroom business ?
It requires little capital and a small space to grow mushrooms but is profitable.

Clarity on the production cost will also enable one to work out a detailed budget that will state how much they need to spend and also they are likely to regain their investment.

They should also have a target market, in this case, daily customers are very important. Lack of proper channels to sell the mushrooms can be a huge challenge as they might not be able to consume all, thus leading to waste due to, perishability.

Story covered by : The NewTimes