Mushroom farming is steadily gaining ground in Kilifi County after farmers realised that it is a potentially lucrative business venture.
The uptake of the new agriculture venture in the region has been boosted by nearby Pwani University campus, even as questions arise over its sustainability.
Mr Duncan Charo Katana, a farmer at Mwanzai village in Jibana, decided to venture into mushroom farming after attending a one-day training course at the university.
“I wanted to try mushrooms after learning that they are profitable,” he says.
In December 2012, he set up a small shed as a production centre, with the necessary dark-room to enable the mushrooms to germinate.
His first harvest was in January last year, when he produced four kilogrammes of mushroom, which he sold to Travellers Beach Hotel in Mombasa for Sh800 a kilo.
His next harvest yielded 9.5 kilogrammes, for which he received Sh8,000.
Mr Katana was, however, forced to abandon the business late in 2013 after his water tank was repossessed by creditors.
“I was using a group water reservoir that we had purchased through a loan. Unfortunately, one of our members defaulted on the loan and the tank was taken away,” he says.
Without a steady supply of water, he was eventually forced to quit.
He plans to restart the business.
But amid the enthusiasm by local farmers, Katana warns of a downside to mushroom farming: Markets are limited.
“The market is small when it comes to mushroom growing. That is why it is best sold to hotels at a good price rather than to locals,” says Mr Katana.
Mr Stephen Chengo, however, believes the crop can change the lives of Kilifi County farmers because it fetches good price in the wider market.
The former agriculture officer is currently an assistant farm manager in charge of mushroom production at Pwani University.