Edible mushroom cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa


Chi Tola mushroom
Chi Tola

Mushroom cultivation has found a niche among small scale famers in sub-Sahara Africa. Previously they were picked from wild forest, but now, many farmers are growing mushroom for their nutritional value as well as for medicinal purposes.

The requirement for mushroom production which are spawn, substrate, and compost are identified and the categories of edible mushroom, the button mushroom (Agaricu Bisporus) and oyster mushroom (Pleurotus Sp.) are also identified. Constraints to production include lack of quality spawn, problem of pest and disease, complex process of obtaining loan and lack of proper skills in production.

Recommendations are being currently made around the aspects of training on mushroom cultivation, financial institutions should start making loans flexible to farmers, government should encourage the use of laboratories to produce and distribute spawn and government should consider mushroom productions as an agricultural activity.

Mushroom farming will flourish like mushroom growth in the coming years in this part of Africa; if the problems identified are attended to urgently and remedial measures are undertaken at the earliest.


A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above the ground on soil or on its food source, mostly in forests. It is perhaps the most well-known and documented edible forest product. Mushrooms are fungi. They belong in a kingdom of their own called fungus, separate from plant and animals. Fungi differ from plant and animals in the way they obtain their nutrients. The word “mushroom” means different things for different people in different countries. They do not have green chlorophyll and so do not manufacture their own foods. It possesses microscopic spores, which serves as a means of reproduction. Mushrooms are of different kinds. The edible mushrooms have medicinal importance while the others are non-edible.

The climate of Nigeria and most part of the sub-Saharan Africa is highly favorable for high volume of mushroom production. The cultivation of mushroom is one of the lucrative agricultural job. In our study the profitability of mushroom cultivation was found comparatively higher than that of cassava and wheat, the most popular cash earning crops in a country as Nigeria.

Since ancient times, man has been interested in mushrooms, which were called “food of gods” by the Romans. Commonly edibles fungi are called mushroom while the poisonous are referred as toadstools.

Mushrooms have been widely used as foods and very often as delicious and nutritious foods.
According to Chang and et al (2004) mushroom may seem to sprout overnight, it actually takes days or weeks for one to develop. Most of the growth of a fungus goes unnoticed because it occurs underground. The underground body of a fungus, called the mycelium, is made of moist thread like filaments.

Mushrooms contain a large array of nutrients and other natural phytochemicals that have wide ranges of nutritional and health benefits.

Their medicinal values include wound-healing, immunity-enhancement, and a tumor-retarding effect, their value has recently been promoted to tremendous levels with medicinal mushroom trials conducted for HIV/AIDS patients in Africa, which have been generating encouraging results. The food value of mushroom varies according to species. The chemical components of mushroom which include proteins, vitamins, fats, carbohydrates, amino acids and minerals. (Chang, Shu-Ting and Philop, 2004).

According to Rambelli and Menini (1985), on an average, the protein value of mushroom is twice as that of potatoes and cabbage four-time as that of tomatoes and carrots, six-times as that of oranges.

Analysis shows that 53 nitrogen compounds are found in a single strain of Agaricus bisporus. Mushrooms contain 206.27mg of vitamin C per 100mg of fresh fruiting body. Mushrooms contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid, all essential for human health. The most common fats are also available in different mushrooms (Chang, 2004). The carbohydrate varies from three to 28 percent. The mineral content is superior to that of meat and fish and nearly twice as that of the most commonly used vegetables.
Mushroom Cultivation Economy in China

Prior to the late 1970s, all major economic activities, such as rice and wheat cultivation and sales, were controlled by the Commune System in China. Ironically, the mushroom cultivation was viewed as a minor of farm activities, and received less attention by the government.

Few policies, regulations and controls were considered to provide incentives. Households were allowed to engage in the production as a second business, on a very small scale. However, the productivity was very low due to poor cultivation techniques. Only two to four species (such as straw mushrooms, shiitake, and white jelly fungus) were cultivated.

The past half-century has witnessed rapid growth in cultivated mushroom production. From 1969 to 2009, the world mushroom production has increased about ten times. The most notable increases occurred in China, the US, the Netherlands, India and Vietnam, according to the FAO [17].

Since the early 1980s, China has maintained a growth rate of 10% per year for three decades. The total mushroom production has increased from 60,000 tons with less than 100 million Yuan of value (15 million USD) in 1978 to 25.7 million tons with over 87 billion Yuan (13 billion USD) in 2008 [18], and 149 billion Yuan (24 billion USD) in 2011[19]. China’s share of global mushroom production has increased from 5.7% in 1978 to 80% in 2008.

The mushroom industry is currently ranked the fifth among the agricultural products of China (after grain vegetable oil, fruits, and vegetables). The exports amounted to 1.7 billion USD in 2008. Although China’s export of mushrooms accounts for only about 40% of the total world mushroom export in recent years, the majority (95% of the total production) has been domestic consumption.

Edible mushrooms have become an important food source for the Chinese. It is recommended by nutritionists to have three dishes (meat(s), vegetables, and mushrooms) for a standard meal in China.

Mushroom are medicinal, they serve as possible sources of antibodies and anticancer agents. Mushrooms have been used for healing purpose for thousands of years. The carbohydrate rate in mushroom is very low, therefore these are mainly recommended to diabetic and anemic patients, owing to their high folic acid content. (Hudler, 2000).

Mushroom can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers. The chromophores of mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colours and all colours of the spectrum can be achieved with mushroom dyes.

Before the invention of synthetic dyes, mushroom were the sources of many textile dyes (Mussak and Bechtold, 2009).
Mushroom production create a zero emission, that is adjusting and maintaining a dynamic balance within the ecosystem by turning waste into something useful in a sustainable manner. Mushroom production provides gainful employment to youth and rural women.

It can earn foreign exchange from exports as well as reducing food scarcity in the society. As funding to promote the production and consumption of mushrooms is limited, local governments and NGOs can play vital role to develop mushroom agriculture to arise at industrial level which can create ample employment opportunities both in semi-urban and rural areas across sub Saharan Africa.

There are many methods of mushroom cultivation but bag cultivation, bottle cultivation, log cultivation and shelf cultivation are usually common. Rice straw, wheat straw, sugarcane waste, banana leaves, grass and sawdust are the major fibrous residues important for mushroom cultivation substrates.

The impacts of the mushroom business on livelihoods and poverty reduction are significant and wide-spread.

Mushroom cultivation does not require a lot of land and is a viable and attractive activity for both rural farmers and peri-urban dwellers. Mushroom growing does not require significant capital investment and the scale of cultivation can be large or small based on the capital and labor availability.

It can be cultivated on a part-time basis with little maintenance. Indirectly, mushroom cultivation also provides opportunities for improving the sustainability of small farming systems through the recycling of organic matter, which can be used as a growing substrate and then returned to the land as fertilizer.
Women, elders, and children can actively engage in the cultivation.

A large amount of work in mushroom cultivation, such as filling substrates into plastic bags or containers, harvesting, and marketing, is ideally suited for women’s participation. Several programs are being introduced to enhance female empowerment through mushroom production by giving them the opportunity to gain farming skills, financial independence, and self-respect.

Popularity of mushrooms is ever increasing throughout every part of the world because of its exotic flavor and their culinary properties whether eaten alone or in combination with other foods. But until now, it is not well known that mushrooms are full of nutrients and can therefore make a very important contribution to human nutrition.

Mushroom production has been described as the most versatile and prolific agriculture and forestry venture all over the world. The FAO has been actively promoting mushroom cultivation for rural development and food security in developing countries.

Given the many mushroom species that have not yet been studied, new discoveries of the health benefits of mushrooms will continue and promising mushroom treatments and products for human diseases may be found in the future.

Mushroom production is the most appropriate job for the poor landless both men and women farmers in Sub Saharan Africa . Mushrooms can be grown in the small space of a farmer’s own house for small scale production and generate income that aids in the family support.

Mushroom cultivation should be considered a preferred activity for development programs targeting income generation among women in sub Saharan Africa because it is suitable for the women’s life style. The product is highly nutritive and a good food for their children and old parents, and because of its high economic value they can also earn some income from the production.

Thus, mushroom cultivation may reduce poverty and improve the life style of many poor farmers and rural poor in in sub Saharan Africa. THANK YOU