After working for United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as a progaramme officer in Taita Taveta and Kwale counties between 2015 and 2017, Paul Nyongesa Kisiangani has decided to leave employment to focus on mushroom production, a venture that he started in 2005 while still in school and which has since employed a group of 32 youth earning them about Sh4m a month.
Kisiangani while pursuing Masters of Science in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development in Masinde Muliro University in 2005, started oyster mushroom farming in a 3.5×3.5 metre room which was one of the rooms in his three bedroom house he rented in Amalemba Estate in Kakamega County.
“I did this to test what the venture could earn me. I was pleased that whatever little production then could rake me about Sh20,000 per month which I used to support my education and settle my bills as well,” said Kisiangani.
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In 2008, he increased the area under mushroom production from his small room to a half an acre piece of land which he bought at Sh400,000, thanks to the Sh10,000 support he got from his wife and others from loan application.
“I have so far increased the acreage from a half an acre to an acre which accommodats seven mushroom production units measuring 4×6 metres each and I am able to harvest 10-20 kilos of the crop daily.”
He sells a kilo of fresh mushroom at Sh400 earning him between Sh4,000 and Sh8,000 per day. His markets includes fresh horticulture crops retail shops in Eldoret, Kisumu, Nairoi, Kakamega and individuals from the surrounding.
Formation of a Youth Group
Nonetheless, while hustling for a job upon graduation in 2005, Kasiangani initiated the formation of Galaxy United Youth Group in 2006, the group which has 32 members currently, all being youth mushroom farmers. Kisisngani is the director of the youth group.
“We decided to form this group to up our production in order to win more tenders by supper markets and crop retailers as we eye export markets,” said Kisiangani.
The group now owns a shop in Kakamega Town, the shop which acts as their mushroom collection centre and an office where they hold meetings among other operations.
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The group has locally fabricated solar drier made from timber, green house polythene papers and shed nets to form a rack where they dry the mushrooms before grinding the mushrooms into powder and package them under Galaxy Mushroom brand for markets.
“We decided to dry and gind into powder the mushrooms to increase their shelf-life and increase their value in the market,” said Kisiangani.
A kilo of dry and powdered mushroom fetches Sh3000 against Sh400 of fresh mushroom. Other than increasing their market value, the group has extended their supply to further markets like Mombasa, which is more than 860 kilometres from Western.
Other markets added in the list include Busia, Bungoma and Kitale where the group supply one of the leading products retail chain in western region.
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During dry season the group can produce around 200 kilos of dry mushroom while in rainy season the production triples to 600 kilos a day totaling to about 1.5 tonnes a month.
One kilogramme of dry mushroom is sold at Sh3,000 while a similar fresh amount fetches Sh300. If the 1.5 tonnes are sold after drying, they rake in a gross income of Sh3.9 million while fresh one bring in Sh450,000.
However, after deducting production costs which is about Sh1.7m, the group remains with Sh4m to divide among themselves depending on the contribution of individual group member.
According to Kisiangani, he is planning to turn the group into a centre of excellence in mushroom production and agribusiness in Kakamega.
“We want to target as many youth as possible who are interested in mushroom farming or any other agribusiness venture.”
He says they are also moving towards more value addition on mushroom to make mushroom soup and mushroom nutri-flour which is best for small children as they target ECD centres.
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“Mushrooms are rich in potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorous and proteins. Calcium and phosphorus are key in strong bone and teeth formation while sodium and potassium help in response and coordination process. Deficiency of the minerals leads to health challenges like goiter in the case of sodium.”
Kisiangani is also a BSC in Horticulture graduate from Egerton University in 2000.