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Stories From Nepal

The Growth of Mushroom Cultivation in Nepal

Peace Corps Volunteer Pearl with her Mushroom training participants
Pearl with her mushroom training participants.

When Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) Pearl arrived at her village to serve as a Food Security Volunteer, she was looking for opportunities to collaborate with local government officials and community members to work on community-driven agriculture initiatives with direct linkages to market.

Community members preparing mushroom bags
Community members prepare mushroom bags.

Pearl's host community, a small farming community in the hills of Gandaki Province, was already engaged in mushroom farming and enjoying mushrooms as part of their daily diets, but they had varying levels of success with their approaches to cultivation.

During an introductory meeting hosted by the ward office and municipal agriculture office, Pearl introduced herself to community members about her role as Food Security Volunteer. That was the spark! Soon, Pearl and community members started planning ways to enhance knowledge and productivity of mushroom cultivation. They all wanted to enhance their skills in cultivation techniques and pest management.

In coordination with her government supervisor, a municipal agriculture official, Pearl started to plan for a community-driven training program. Pearl’s supervisor, a seasoned agriculture expert, agreed to serve as a co-facilitator for the mushroom training. With assistance from the USAID-funded Small Project Assistance (SPA) program, Pearl and her community received a micro-grant to help 10 farmers improve their mushroom cultivation techniques.

The training, which focused on oyster mushrooms, included preparation of rice straw and packaging, inoculation of mushroom spawn, storage, growth monitoring, and insect pest management. By the end of the training a total of 55 bags of mushroom packs were prepared; within a month, each pack started to yield, on an average, 4-5 kilograms of oyster mushrooms.

Binu with her mushroom harvest
Binu with her mushroom harvest.

A female farmer, Binu, was among the training recipients. Binu had carefully prepared her workspace and bags so that her mushrooms were free from contamination. Contamination during the bag-making process is one of the biggest challenges to mushroom production—even one misplaced, unsanitized hand can infect a whole bag of straw and spawn with mold. Soon Binu was training other farmers on how to prepare bags and the importance of cleanliness.

Encouraged by the success of the training, Binu has begun experimenting with other substrates for mushroom cultivation, such as dried pea husks and wheat straw. When the weather cools in late 2024, Binu and Pearl plan to work together to grow mushrooms at a larger scale and sell them in local markets. As the word spreads, two others have approached Pearl and Binu to join their efforts.

This, for Pearl and Binu, is just the beginning!