My name is Kale Asigbetse, 26 years old, and I am from Togo. I am a graduate of environment and plant biology from the University of Lomé. I have worked as an environmentalist, journalist and natural sciences teacher. I also hold a certificate from an introductory e-course on climate change from UNITAR.
For the last 10 months I have been producing mushroom at a very low cost in Hanyigba, where I currently live, near Kpalimé, the great town of South-west Togo.
What is the “Tona Mushroom” project about?
This is a project that aims to produce and sell mushrooms, especially Pleurotus, in Kpalimé and Lomé, the capital city of Togo. The most important feature of the project is that I want the production to be available continuously, which is unlike what has been done so far.
There have been some mushroom producers who have faced difficulties to make the product available all the time, either because their investment was too low, they couldn’t hire workers or they didn’t manage their income well.
Because I have done it at a small scale, I know that mushroom production can be profitable if well planned and efficiently managed.
As for the community I’m living in, the project will create jobs, meaning livelihood improvement not only for the laborers hired but also for their families. As the project grows, more people will be hired to work on the farm and sell the produce. The growth medium used to produce mushroom will be made available and combined with other materials to sell as green manure.
Many people, and especially children, have malnutrition problems, and it is not because they don’t eat enough but because their food is not diversified enough to provide useful nutrients like proteins, vitamins and mineral elements in the required quantity.
Mushroom is a stand-alone, naturally fortified food that can provide these nutrients at a price that is accessible to most people in my country.
This food is a real plus for the community’s nutrition and health and available to everyone, regardless of age or sex.
Furthermore, while working on the project I mentioned above, I noticed that clients were often frustrated because we could not provide mushrooms whenever they needed it. Our production was too irregular. That motivated me to produce at a better pace so as to satisfy the growing clientele and widen it beyond the town of Kpalimé, where we have been centered so far.
Another motivation source is that I want to break the perception that mushrooms are a food for rich people or vegetarians, which will require a low-price policy to make them affordable for the average citizen.
Finally, the mushroom sector is still young in Togo. Producers are small in number, irregular and lack a bold marketing strategy. That is why the mushroom business is an opportunity to be seized immediately.
How will the business be run?
To produce Pleurotus mushrooms, one needs growth medium and mycelium (which is the seed), and a closed and wet place with a temperature between 20°C and 25°C. Once poured over the substratum and packed in a sachet, the mycelium expands and starts producing mushroom fructifications (the edible mushroom) after 21-28 days.
Production goes on for 6 to 8 weeks, decreasing at the end. But before that, the growth medium has to be prepared, enriched with rice debris or sawdust and –very importantly – sterilized. Of all the materials, mycelium is the cheapest item. If purchased regularly, it can sustain production and avoid gaps in the harvest.
The job is essentially manual and I plan to hire someone to assist me. As we grow, we will hire more people. Other people will be involved to provide the main growth medium, which is couch-grass.
The other part of the project is about selling the product. For that we will use several options: selling to individuals in offices and administrations, clients in hotels and restaurants and clients in health facilities. After some time we will rent stores equipped with refrigerators in order to preserve the mushroom, which is a perishable item.
We will also need a dryer, because dried mushroom can be conserved for a long time and some people prefer the taste.
As soon as we are capable of producing continuously, we will also conduct a media campaign to convince people that mushroom consumption is beneficial for their health. Our marketing will be also present on internet, especially through social networks.
What is already available?
So far, there is a farm in an acceptable condition that can host the production at the beginning. As soon as we make enough money, we will build a new one that is more spacious and that can resist heavy rains and winds to protect the production operation at all times. The place where we can build this new farm is also available. We also have a tank for sterilization, but it is insufficient for our purposes and can slow down the work.
What would success look like?
Success is first in the eye of clients. If they give good testimonies about the quality and the benefits of the product, then we have won part of the battle. The other part of course is financial sustainability. We consider our business successful if profits can easily compensate for the cost of production, allowing us to earn a decent livelihood and create more jobs.
How will the $5000 USD be used?
$2000 to ensure mycelium purchase for 8 months, necessary to produce continuously;
$1200 for media campaign and other marketing needs;
$1200 for 2 refrigerators and a dryer;
$250 to build the new farm;
$200 to shift the sterilization oven from wood-burning to gas;
$80 to purchase 4 new tanks;
$70 for growth medium during the first 3 months.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Kale Asigbetse (Hanyigba, Togo) – komi.kale[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
This post is published as proposal #223 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.
The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.
As a reader, you can support this speaker’s entry:
- Leave a comment (question, suggestion,..) on this project in the comment field at the bottom of this page
- Support the post by clicking the “Like” button below (only possible for those with a WordPress.com account)
- Spread this post via your social media channels, using the hashtag: #GCARD3
Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!
As a donor, support young agripreneurs and sponsor this unique project. Check out the side column for our current sponsors.
“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.