My name is Paulina Mselem and I’m 35 years old. I come from Iringa, Tanzania. I currently work with Neema Crafts Organisation in Iringa, an organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities.
I have a disability myself but my philosophy is “disability is not inability”. I am committed to creating hope in my community.
Recently I attended a training at Rlabs Iringa and I was challenged to start my own company. The company is called Kilimo Elimu. We are dedicated to educating farmers on innovative and proper agricultural practices. My level of education is secondary school.
My idea is to make mushroom farming simple and accessible to everybody by supplying packets of mushroom growing medium embedded with mushroom seed. The buyer just waters the medium and mushrooms begin to sprout.
This technique will save time and help mushroom enthusiasts and small entrepreneurs avoid the process of sowing spores and the challenges involved.
Mushrooms are rich in protein and other nutrients, but many communities lack access to them due to the technicalities involved. In Tanzania, Iringa is one of the most affected regions as far as malnutrition is concerned. This idea of making mushrooms easily accessible can go a long way to alleviate this problem among households.
I am motivated to do the project because of both health and economic benefits. As explained above, mushrooms are important for nutrition. Likewise, this business can generate income for me and the community I live in, especially fellow youth who might not have enough capital to invest in big businesses but can afford buying a few packets of medium embedded with spores to start a mushroom business.
I intend to start mushroom propagation in a simple laboratory, made with locally available materials. I have received training from experts and currently we have already planted the first batch of mushrooms.
After this, I intend to do trials with packaging materials. I am working with the Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO) to develop the proper packaging materials for growth media.
Then I shall send the first products to customers and get their response. Already, there is a customer in waiting, an organisation called Cheetar Development. They are willing to buy dried mushrooms from my company.
I shall keep innovating as I grow the business, trying different types of packages and mushrooms. I have started with oyster mushrooms.
So far, I have propagated the initial batch of mushrooms in a small laboratory which we constructed with simple materials. I use a pressure cooker and calcium hypochlorite for sterilizing, and I use used bottles for keeping the spores.
Success will be measured according to how many packets we are able to produce and sell in one month. I target to be selling 1,000 packets per month six months from now.
The number of young people engaged in the mushroom business after buying spores from us will also be a measure of success.
Budget for the next year:
Acquisition of simple laminar flow cabinet: US $1000
Acquisition of used autoclave US $1000
Buying more lab equipment (pH meter, humidifiers) US $1000
Buying machine for making packaging materials: US$1200
Purchase of more mother cultures: US$ 800
Blogpost and picture submitted by Paulina Mselem (Tanzania) – pmselem2014[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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