Mushroom industry is very new in Tanzania, efforts to promote mushroom production was initiated by the ministry of agriculture since early 90s.
Projects related with promotion of mushroom as income generation activity to low income earners have been established by different NGOs, however, projects are short lived, no sustainability to the projects.
Former Prime Minister Salim Ahmed Salim is convinced that Tanzanians can earn a lot if they can pool their socks and turn their efforts by producing mushrooms.
He urged that it’s time for Tanzanians to adoupt mushroom production technology and start investing on it as it has a number of benefits in health but with almost fantastic economic potentials.
The former Prime Minister said these when he was inaugurating the new mushroom research and production centre at Boko area on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam recently.
Dr Salim, who is also a Chancellor of Hubert Kairuki Memorial university (HKMU), said the plant was very unique which its potential is yet to be fully realised.
According to him, if it is properly harnessed, mushroom is capable of boosting individual, family and even national economy.
He urged stakeholders to embark on public enlightenment on how some Asian countries are making a lot of money out of mushroom production.
“If you were disvaluing or ignoring mushroom, then you should stop such notion immediately and start taking it as your food, medicine and business opportunity.
From there you will see how your life becomes elegant,” said Dr Salim, pointing out that mushroom production could transform the country’s economy and people’s health.
Salim adding that Mushroom production in the country could transform the whole outlook of the economy and people’s health.
Dr Salim said he has learned from various nations he gave tour that mushroom was one of the business that was giving those nations a lot of money.
The mushroom centre inauguration was part of activities to mark 17 years of the death of the celebrated medic and academic, Prof Hubert Clemence Kairuki.
The late don was a Specialist Obstetrician and Gynecologist who made great contributions to that field, helping a lot to improve women’s health in Tanzania.
For his part, HKMU Vice Chancellor Prof Mshigeni said very few Tanzanians know that mushrooms have financial, nutitional and medicinal values thus more education is needed on this.
He said, Tanzania is amongst developing countries whereby most of her people especially those living in rural areas cannot get adequate intake of essential food with balanced food rich in essential compounds such as proteins, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
“However there are some households now prefer mushrooms because awareness about their nutritional benefits is growing,” he said.
He said he learned from various countries he has visited that mushroom farming was among businesses that provide good income to those taking it up.
For his part, HKMU Vice Chancellor Prof Keto Mshigeni said that few Tanzanians were aware that mushrooms have financial, nutritional and medicinal value, thus more education is needed on that subject.
Prof Mshigeni is a mushroom expert who for years has been sharing his vast knowledge with other people who consult him on how to farm the product, and now setting up the mushroom research centre.
“There are types of mushrooms which can increase the appetite of HIV infected persons, increase CD4 and so many other benefits.
There is mushroom bread, as well, while one can fortify bread with mushroom as it contains protein.
No cholesterol,” he elaborated. Asian countries especially China make tens of millions of dollars annually from mushroom farming, so Tanzanians can take up the idea as well as part of crop diversification, the don specified.
China produces more than 30m metric tonnes of mushrooms per year with a value crossing one billion dollars and employs over 50 million people.
It is a dramatic increase from 60,000 metric tonnes it was producing before embarking on systematic economic reforms in 1978.
He cited an example that there are some types of mushrooms which are sold at a value of 1m/- per kilogramme, others go up to 100,000 USD per kilogramme.
Mushrooms have a number of essential compounds and functional substances for human health including bioactive components including phenols, flavonoid and vitamins.
However, according to Prof Mshigeni, consumption of mushrooms in Tanzania is as old as history but unfortunately poisonous mushrooms are also collected along with edible varieties putting consumers in a danger of consuming poison.
Lethal mushrooms are not easily distinguished from edible ones. But today, mushroom entrepreneurs can apply the simplest available methods to ensure food safety at household level.
“In 1978, I was invited by ministry of light industry to conduct the first Mushroom training workshop in China, which was held in Beijing for two weeks.
At that time, the annual production of edible mushrooms in China was only 60,000 tonnes. However in 2002, China’s mushroom production was over 8.6 million tones,” he explained.
Now, China is a leading producer and consumer of both edible and medicinal mushrooms.
In 1978, China’s production of edible mushrooms accounted for only 5.7 percent of total world production. The percentage contribution of China’s mushroom production to world mushroom production has increased steadily through the years.
Prof Mshigeni disclosed that the health benefits of mushrooms include relief from high cholesterol levels, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes.
It also helps in weight loss, and increases the strength of your immune system.
They are excellent sources of antioxidants in general as they contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world.
But they also contain antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms. One such antioxidant is ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognise as a 'master antioxidant.'
Interestingly, it's an amino acid that contains sulfur. Mushrooms are edible fungi with various scientific names, but the family name is “Agaricus”, and then there are many secondary names for different species.
They are essentially Saprophytes. They thrive by extracting nutrients from dead and decaying plant and animal matter.
They vary greatly in their color, texture, shape and properties. Prof Mshigeni added that Tanzania’s tropical climate is perfect for mushroom production and they can be grown all year round, creating employment, health and wealth.