Despite having dreams of learning entrepreneurship, it was not easy for her to achieve those dreams as she did not have enough training and could not afford to pay for the training.
But after some time she was linked to the Skills Development Fund (SDF) which is coordinated by the Tanzania Education Authority (TEA) and funded by the government through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the World Bank (WB) as part of the Tanzania Education and Skills for Productive Jobs Program (ESPJ).
It is aimed at capacitating Tanzanians who are involved in agriculture, agribusiness, and agro-processing economic sector in order to enhance their skills and foster their productivity, efficiency, and economic growth.
Pelagia is one of more than 400 beneficiaries who have received funding for entrepreneurship training including processing and value addition of food crops, spices, and mushroom farming.
She was trained by Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) in Dar es Salaam.
“It was my long-term dream of growing mushrooms, but I did not get the right information on how to grow this crop,” says Pelagia, a Dar es Salaam resident who runs mushrooms farming in Kinyerezi area of Ilala Municipality.
For a long time Pelagia struggled to find knowledge and skills about mushroom cultivation without success.
Through the SDF grant, Pelagia realized her dream and is currently growing mushrooms that enable her to earn a living. A mother of five used the mushroom farming venture to supplement the family’s needs.
She received information about the SDF training opportunity through a friend and without hesitation she grabbed the opportunity by submitting an application for training to SIDO.
She finally graduated from the mushroom farming training and quickly prepared a mushroom farm and started farming.
Pelagia, who is now an entrepreneur, says she was fascinated by mushroom production due to its benefits such as nutrition, mineral therapy, and a variety of vitamins.
Mushroom farming is not very popular in Tanzania and most of the time; consumers depend on wild mushrooms for special purposes.
Currently only a small percentage of Tanzanians benefit from mushroom nutrition as it is not widely produced and is available at high cost in supermarkets where one kilogram of mushrooms sells for between 8,000/- and 10,000/-.
Pelagia has the biggest dream of this crop, believing that many Tanzanians should use and benefit from the nutrition and treatment found in the mushroom plant.
“I want this crop to reach every Tanzanian due to its health benefits,” adds Pelagia.
In support of Pelagia’s efforts, the SDF project through the World Bank project has successfully provided her with a vegetable solar dryer, which she will use to dry mushrooms and other vegetables as part of adding value to her products and adding to the time to take care of its crops of mushrooms after harvesting.
Commenting on her future plans, Pelagia aspires to open and register a company that will oversee mushroom production and marketing in and out of Tanzania.
A mushroom farmer cites lack of access to quality seeds as one of the challenges she is currently facing, noting that it has been affecting production, increasing production costs thus contributing to higher mushroom prices and making the crop look like a crop of high-income people.
SIDO Dar es Salaam Regional Manager, Ridhiwan Matange lauded the government for enabling his institution to provide such entrepreneurship training to more than 400 beneficiaries including Pelagia.
Matange said the funding has helped SIDO Dar es Salaam strengthen its capacity to provide training, especially in the expansion area.
The value of food products through SDF funding has renovated the building that is used for training and procured teaching materials including a projector, chairs, and tables.
SDF is a fund that aims to enable training institutions to increase quality and efficiency in providing skills training and vocational training in the country's priority sectors which are economics, tourism and hospitality services, transportation, construction, information technology, and communication (ICT) and energy.
The mushroom market is estimated to account for a value of $16.7 billion in 2020, with forecasts showing it will significantly grow due to increased consumption preference, increased per capita consumption, cost-effectiveness in its production, and amplified skills and knowledge among farmers and stakeholders.