Mushroom farming connects electrician to good income line
Currently, he is harvesting over 20 kilos of button mushrooms per day which he sells at Sh600 per kilo earning him Sh12,000. On a good day, he can collect up to 100 kilos of the mushrooms which can earn over Sh60,000 a day.
John Muchura at his mushroom farm in Juja, Kiambu County. photo | courtesy
A meagre salary of Sh500 a day made John Muchura, 37, quit his job in 2012 at an electrical company and pursue mushroom farming, a venture that now earns him a tidy sum daily. Mr Muchura graduated from the Technical University of Kenya (TUK), then known as Kenya Polytechnic, with a Diploma in Electronic Engineering in 2005. He later got a job with an electrical installation company in Nairobi. His work involved wiring and installing electrical appliances for the company’s clients in various places.“My work in the company involved travelling almost on a daily basis on assignments to meet our clients in need of electronic services and I used my own money on transport and lunch leaving me with almost no savings at the end of the day,” says Mr Muchura.After one year, Mr Muchura who also pursued microbiology at TUK but later dropped it, left the company and got a teaching job in a private high school in Ruiru in 2007.
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From this job, he was able to save some money that would enable him to start mushroom farming as a side hustle in Juja, Kiambu County. “I used Sh2,000 to buy a drum, poles, grass and wheat straws among other materials I knew were basic in growing the crop. Then I used Sh1,000 to buy one kilogramme of oyster mushroom seeds,” notes Mr Muchura.He chose to plant oyster mushroom, which according to him is easy to multiply compared to button mushrooms which mutate making it difficult to produce consistent yields.“Although oyster mushrooms do not do well in the market as compared to button mushrooms, which are easy to market and sell, I could make my own seeds with oyster mushrooms as opposed to button mushrooms that keep changing their productivity rate,” he says.From one of his 15×20 metres grass-thatched mud house, he used to harvest 20 punnets which is equivalent to five kilos of oyster mushrooms a day. He sold one punnet at Sh100 translating to about Sh2,000 a day. This motivated him. In 2013, he quit teaching to fully focus on mushroom farming. He abandoned oyster mushroom for button mushroom and has since increased his production houses from one to five. Currently, he is harvesting over 20 kilos of button mushrooms per day which he sells at Sh600 per kilo earning him Sh12,000.In addition, Mr Muchura trains over 30 farmers from various areas on button mushroom farming. These farmers also produce between 20 and 50 kilos of mushroom daily which he either buys from them or connects them with other buyers.“The training started when a farmer visited me and saw what I was doing and able to achieve. After training him and he became successful, he went spreading the word to other farmers and that is how I got connected to the over 30 farmers,” he says. Although the farmers source for their own markets, they also rely on Mr Muchura to connect them with better and reliable buyers something he does for free to motivate them to bring in more growers into mushroom farming. He plans to start a farmers’ network in a bid to meet market demand. “I source from the farmers about 50 kilos, add my 20 kilos making it 70 kilos or more depending on the market demand,” he says. The mushroom industry has a well-established private sector investment with large scale commercial farms like Agridutt Limited, Rift Valley Mushrooms, Online Mushrooms, Devani and Kanchan Mushrooms. However, key exporting companies do not have outgrowers.In Kenya, there is a high demand for mushrooms. The country produces 500 tonnes a year – of which 476 tonnes are button mushroom – against an annual demand of 1200 tonnes, according to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS). A kilo of mushroom is priced at between Sh400 and Sh600.“I am targeting more farmers who can work as a team so that we can win supply contracts with supermarkets and exporters. At least this will assure us of a more stable and consistent market for our produce,” he addsOn a good day, he can collect up to 100 kilos of the mushrooms which can earn over Sh60,000 a day.