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Accountant’s job or mushroom farming; mushrooms earn more

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After completing his high school studies at Rari Boys High School in 2002, John Kiehia lacked school fees to proceed to college to study an accounting course. While looking for jobs he was lucky to land an apprenticeship program at Rift Valley Mushrooms in 2003 where he learned the art of mushroom production earning Sh25,000 a month. 16 years later, he is earning Sh160,000 every week supplying mushrooms to various supermarkets within the Westlands region, Nairobi.

From his quarter an acre farm in Uthiru, John is now harvesting 100kg of mushrooms weekly which he packages in quarter kilo packets with each retailing at Sh200. In this, John is earning eight times more income per month than what an average accountant in Kenya takes home.

By mid-career, accountants in Kenya earn an average of Sh78,500 a month according to


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“From 2002 to 2005 as I worked at Rift Valley Mushrooms, I found out there was a huge demand for mushrooms in urban centers such as Nairobi and this is why I decided to quit my job so as to establish my own farm,” said John.

According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Kenya produces an estimated 500 tonnes of mushrooms annually valued at Sh340m against a demand of 1200 tonnes therefore leaving a deficit of 700 tonnes.

John invested one million shillings which he acquired as a loan from Equity Bank to build a four roomed mushroom house and raw materials such as wheat straws, chicken manure and molasses.

“I started with just one employee but I have since employed four permanent workers. I also regularly engage the services of eight casuals but the number may vary depending on the amount of work,” said John.

 John notes that farmers intending to grow mushrooms for sale can use farm waste from their farms to grow the food produce. The waste obtained from maize, sugarcane thrash, sawdust and banana leaves among other crops is ideal for mushroom growing because they thrive on a substratum.

The agricultural waste, which is easily available on farms, is soaked for three days and then heaped for fermentation for four to six days in a closed container.

After the fermentation process, the agricultural waste is sterilized through boiling in closed pots for 12 hours in order to eliminate unwanted organisms and bacteria. After cooling, it is filled in small polyethylene plastic bags using common bowls, to serve as a substrate.

The substrate should be composed by 65 to 75 per cent of moisture, and for the remaining part by agricultural waste. It can be used for three harvests, and then it can be recycled as organic mulch or fertilizer. Alternatively, cotton seed waste can be used as substrate for oyster mushroom production.

Polyethylene plastic bags are filled with the substrate (about five kilograms per bag), which is then inoculated with the mushroom spawns (spawns are ‘mixed’ with the substrate). Each garden of about five kilograms of substrate is filled with about 250 grams of spawns.  At that time, plastic bags are closed manually.

Following the inoculation process, the mushroom bags are hanged in locally built (brick or mud walls and thatched roof), darkened mushroom houses for incubation. Ideal humidity of the incubation room is 70 – 75 per cent. Each room can host up to 300 gardens.

The mushrooms start sprouting after 28-35 days from inoculation. Each mushroom garden (i.e. plastic bag containing about five kilograms of substrate) yields a minimum of two kilograms of fresh oyster mushrooms.

Harvested mushrooms can be sold fresh, or they can be dried in a solar dryer and packed into plastic bags for sale.

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