Have you ever wondered why mushrooms are so expensive and seem like an elitist food? Why would a fungus cost more than beef and fish? How nutritious could this delicacy be? Well, wonder no more. All types of edible mushrooms contain varying degrees of protein and fibre. They also contain B vitamins as well as selenium, which helps to support the immune system and prevent damage to cells and tissues. Mushrooms are being increasingly researched and used for their important health benefits with different varieties having different medicinal properties. For example, certain varieties of mushrooms have even been shown to have potential in protecting against cancer. There is also some evidence that they may be beneficial in the treatment and management of some neurodegenerative diseases.
Cultivation of mushrooms, such as oyster mushrooms, is also a sustainable business where different natural resources such as corncobs or even used coffee grounds can be used as a growing material. The number of people who are getting interested into this field is rapidly increasing, and the possibilities to create viable businesses out of fungiculture are gaining attention globally.
In Africa, mushroom cultivation has the potential to improve livelihoods and health of communities, be they urban, peri-urban or rural, by creating job opportunities especially for unemployed youth and women and increasing the availability of both culinary and medicinal mushrooms.
Since mushroom cultivation is generally not a subject available at school, most farmers learn it by doing. The time to master mushroom cultivation is, however, time consuming and can be costly in terms of missed revenue. The NEPAD SANBio Mushroom Node at the University of Namibia has for years been disseminating information on fungiculture to communities and entrepreneurs-to-be. In line with their mandate, and with funding from BioFISA II, the node arranged a new training course on mushroom cultivation technologies on 31 October – 3 November 2017 in Windhoek, Namibia. The training was targeted to entrepreneurs, youth, women and researchers interested in mushroom cultivation, and will hopefully result in new enterprises and increased awareness in the field.