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New information resource for the semi-arid tropics

ICRISAT (less of a mouthful than ‘The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’) has announced a new information product they have named ‘EXPLOREit@ICRISAT‘. EXPLOREit (for short) is a web-based system that automatically assembles and updates packages of information about their main subject areas. ICRISAT has initially defined 35 subjects across the spectrum of crops, topics, geographic locations, systems and the knowledge/data stores on which they work.

As they put it:

EXPLOREit weaves together our current knowledge on each of these subjects from across our websites, databases and the internet, making it easily accessible from a single-page starting point. There, the knowledge is sub-organized by tabs so that learners can focus on their areas of interest. For example, for each of our five focus crops the tabs offer the learner an overview, knowledge of the crop’s botany, facts and figures about the crop, releases of improved varieties, past and current major projects on that crop, publications, databases, and public awareness stories.

This is an extraordinarily extensive resource, so much so that it it is easy to get diverted into another topic of interest. My exploratory trip resulted in a visit to uniBRAIN, and I’m sure you will get diverted as well: after all, that’s what it’s there for.

(ICRISAT is a non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.)

Grants, funding and fellowships relating to African agriculture

I hope you’ve noticed that FARA has a page on grants, funding and fellowships relating to Africa, centred on agriculture, but extending to horticulture, climate change and related field.

The Forum for Agricultural research in Africa (FARA) is an apex organization, bringing together and forming coalitions of major stakeholders in agricultural research and development in Africa.


Youth Agro-Environment Initiative will hold training on OYSTER MUSHROOM FARMING on Saturday August 10th 2013.

The training will take place between 10:00 am – 3:pm at the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming, located in Juja, a few kilometres from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

Charges are Ksh 3500 per person.

Call 0714211644 or email yagrein@gmail.com to book a place


Organic Sack Gardening, Waste and Urban Livestock

The latest edition of New Agriculturist (2013-3) is now online at www.new-ag.info. Urban agriculture, for years outlawed by municipal authorities, offers solutions to numerous urban problems, including poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, unemployment and waste management.

Here are some suggestions to dip into first.

Organic sack gardening in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, 500 people with limited access to land are supplementing their food and income by growing vegetables in sacks. In addition to enabling families to consume vegetables more regularly, sack gardening has also empowered women, who most often organise and take care of the gardens.  read article

Transforming waste and wasteland in Dakar
In Dakar, Senegal, micro-gardening projects are re-greening urban spaces previously lost to rubbish dumping and car parks. New waste collection and sorting practices have reduced pollution and provided raw material for compost making. read article

And closer to home, Livestock in the city: separating fact from fiction
In the absence of evidence, policies are often based on the prejudice that urban livestock keeping is unsafe (credit: © Kate Holt/Internews Network)In 2005, a study was initiated by the University of Nairobi and ILRI to understand the risks and benefits of urban dairying, to contribute to pro-poor policy and create good practice guidelines for risk reduction. The study revealed some surprising results. read article

Mushroom Growing Resources in Kenya

This is a highly disorganised collection of resources relating to mushroom growing and training in Kenya. If some of the information is out of date, it would help everybody if you leave a comment at the bottom. Also, if you know of a training course, perhaps you would also leave a comment.

The Agricultural Information Resource Centre (AIRC), Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya (email: agriinfocentre@yahoo.com) published in 2009 a colour  booklet entitled ‘Guide to Growing Mushroom’.

http://cosdep.wordpress.com/category/cosdeps-demo-center/ COSDEP grows oyster mushroom for sale and training purposes. They also sell mushroom substrate  to farmers. Being near to Nairobi which is the main market of this useful product is an added advantage. They also give mushroom production as a course to farmers upon arrangements. Tel No: +254722460769 or +254708183547. Email: coskenya@yahoo.com or coskenya@gmail.com.

Benflex were providing materials. Call for booking & more information: BENFLEX INDUSTRIES LTD, Tel: 821178/9, 0714 276626, Email: info@benflex.co.ke

Fully Certified Mushroom Growing Course

Due to public demand, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has developed a comprehensive training programme at the University Campus for training in growing of the most popular mushrooms.

Course Dates for 2012:

  • OCT 24-26, NOV 21-23, DEC 05-07

Course Charges
KShs. 10,000/= per a participant Accommodation and meals – each participant to make own arrangement. CALL FOR MORE DETAILS: 0724256696 / 0736524200

According to Grace Wanene, you can purchase ready made sterilized substrate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology at Juja, 36 km northeast of Nairobi, along Thika-Nairobi Superhighway. Moi University at Chepkoilel sells hybrid mushroom spawns.

Alex Njenga is on Radio Inooro, Coro, Kameme and KBC (Mali Shambani and Sikio ya Mkulima) and is a keen promoter of mushroom farming.

In 2008, I bought the excellent “The Mushroom Manifesto” as a .pdf from mushymart.net, but regrettably their website has closed. If anybody knows where the copyright holder is, I would be interested in republishing it. While on the subject of books, I cannot recommend those by Paul Stamets highly enough. “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms” is not cheap, (around 2000/- if you can find a copy) but it’s an enormous resource to have.

Lastly, try ringing nearby universities. I’m sure I have seen extension programmes in the past – and if you find something do share it with everybody with a comment below 🙂

Oyster Mushroom Training Manual

Video about their Oyster Mushroom Training Manual from BioSafe Technologies (gaterepaul@gmail.com, +254 729248)

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Mushrooms Lure Young Man away from the City

Bernardine Mutanu reports an interesting story in Business Daily.

Mr Muchiri inside a mushroom room at his Riamukurwe Village farm in Nyeri County.  One kilogramme of button mushroom is sold at between Sh500 and Sh900 , while the oyster  variety  costs between Sh300 and Sh500 per kilogramme. JOSEPH KANYI

It tells how John Collins Muchiri, 28, left Nairobi to pursue farming at his rural Riamukurwe Wambugu farm in Nyeri, rather than stay in the city. John Muchiri left to grow mushrooms and has never looked back since.

“I have a passion for farming. I left my job as a sales person to do full time farming,” he said during an interview at his home. He received Sh25,000 from his brother and used Sh15,000 of it to pay for a mushroom growing course and Sh10,000 to buy substrate, on which to grow the mushrooms.

He raised more money to study how to make substrate. “I raised Sh75,000 from selling goats and went for another training. It was hard at first because there was no one to guide me on getting raw materials, equipment, and market,” he said.

After acquiring the necessary materials, John Muchiri built a darkroom for growing mushrooms. John Muchiri has since increased the number of darkrooms to five, following a rise in demand for his mushrooms. One darkroom costs between Sh20,000 and Sh30,000 to build, depending on the construction materials used and the size of the structure. A darkroom consists of wooden sections, on which the substrate is placed to allow the mushrooms to grow, walls are covered with polythene papers. A thermometer is placed in each room to monitor the temperature closely.

Medicinal value

With 30 regular clients, he makes at least Sh3.6 million per year through selling the substrate alone. “I get contracts from farmers to make substrate. Making one tonne of the substance costs Sh55,000 and I can make as much as five tonnes for one farmer,” he said. He grows three types of mushrooms: button (Agaricus), oyster (Pleurotus), and shiitake . One kilogramme of button is sold at between Sh500 and Sh900, while oyster costs between Sh300 and Sh500 per kilogramme. He incubates shiitake only on order as it is prized for its medicinal value. Mr Muchiri said he makes between Sh15,000 and Sh20, 000 per day during harvest time. “I want to increase the volume of substrate so that I can supply at least 200 kg of mushrooms per day,” he said. He supplies mushrooms to hotels in Nyeri, Nanyuki, Nairobi, and Mombasa as he looks forward to exporting the produce.
John Muchiri also teaches farmers how to grow mushrooms.
John Muchiri said that patience is the key to the success of any business. He attributed his success to support from his pastor and hotels.

Bernardine Mutanu  can be found writing on many topics at Nation Media.