Chapvin Mushrooms house at Igegania, Thika. the company currently produces 80-100 punnets a week. Photo courtesy.
Charles Gathari, former students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) with Kelvin Mwangi and Peter Ngugi who are in their final year in the same institution slowly managed to save Sh54,000 from their pocket money to start mushroom farming, a venture currently earning them Sh6,000 a week.
The trio had a plant to utilize a 5x5m piece of Gathari’s family land at Igegania, Thika to produce oyster mushrooms after doing some market research while in school.
“Our aim was to find a farming or business activity that could see us productive even after school as we knew employment was not just there waiting. The idea of mushroom was great because the fungus needs limited space to produce and can be started with a small capital,” said Gathari.
According to October 2017 research by British Council on Youth Employment in Kenya, only 500,000 to 800,000 out of 10m young Kenyans are entering the job market each year as the country’s economy has not been able to provide the necessary amount of employment opportunities – formal and informal alike.
To start with, the three comrades built a mud grass-thatched house with a capacity of accommodating 1,000 bags of mushrooms and prepared a substrate, a medium through which mushrooms grow using wheat straws. They also bought 28kgs of spawns at Sh600 a kilo from JKUAT.
The made 25 stacks of hay which they filled in 700 bags for planting the spawns that took 3 -4 weeks to mature, producing 700 punnets of mushrooms which they sold at Sh125 per punnet making Sh6,000 a week. This was a big encouragement.
“The idea of starting a business with minimal capital was daunting at first, but after a good production in the first cycle, we knew the business was scalable,” he said.
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Today they are producing 1,000 punnets per production cycle and projects to produce 1,350 punnets by May 2019.
“We currently produce 80-100 punnets a week. However, we project to produce one tonne in the current cycle equivalent to 1,000kgs. If we prorate this profit to expected produce, it will translate to 4,000 punnets, meaning we will make a profit of up to Sh250, 000,” Charles said.
They have since started Chapvin Mushrooms, a company through which they are now pursuing their passion in farming.
Kenya produces 500 tonnes annually against a demand of 1200 tonnes, according to statistics from the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS).