A wonder of nature for health and sustainable livelihood was the theme during the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology Mushroom Group (MMUSTMUG) official launch held at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamega County.
Professor Asenath Sigot, the principal researcher of the Mushroom and Spirulina Project at the University says the research started small with Ksh 200,000/= only. With time she says, the project was extended to the farmers who learn to grow mushrooms and Spirulina.
“We started with Mushroom project at the university, where the research involved working with the community women to improve on family nutrition and as a means of income generation. This research funded by Masinde Muliro University is an on-going project that employs participatory techniques, where members of the community are recruited, trained and supported to start their own mushroom and spirulina farms that yields to the required data for analysis. This is to ensure maximum technology transfer during the project period.”
Prof. Sigot doesn’t even explain a lot for you to understand the weight of this project. Her testimony and what she terms to be her motivation is very moving. She says she learnt of Mushrooms and Spirulina benefits way too late. She had a Hypo-thyroid swelling and had undergone two major surgeries. She was afraid that since the swelling had not completely gone and was increasing, a third surgery would be very dangerous for her aged body. It is then that she started using mushrooms at whatever opportunity available. Believe it or not, the swelling is no more and now she is completely cured. She reinforced saying that every research project at the University should involve students.
Mr Anthony Muchidi a beneficiary of this project says that Spirulina has helped him health wise since its discovery.”I was infected with HIV/AIDs in 1980 and from the time I was introduced to Spirulina, my health is much better because am still alive and going strong.” He said.
Saumu Asman, the Treasurer Vihiga Mushroom Growers Association says that they joined MMUSTMUG in 2003 as farmers of Oyster Mushrooms where they went through training by trainers from the ministry of agriculture on how to add value on mushrooms and export promotion council trained them on branding and packaging aspect. “Mushroom farming needs a lot of finances which is a big challenge for us but we thank Professor Sigot for helping us through the Mushroom and Spirulina project collaboration where one of us underwent training on mushroom planting which has made us make big strides.” She said adding that mushroom farming is much more profitable than maize farming for its harvested three times a year and funds generated helps in paying school fees given the fact that 1kg of fresh mushroom is sold at Ksh 200/= while 1kg of dry mushroom sells at Ksh 1500/=.
Saumu says with optimism that products from mushrooms like mushroom powder, gonadama mushroom and flour helps patients suffering from diabetes, ulcers and high blood pressure.
The Chairman, Kenya Mushroom Growers Association Francis Silingi says they have been working in collaboration with MMUST in this research project to exchange ideas. “Being the National chairman, Kenya Mushroom Growers Association, my office engaged farmers to produce mushrooms. All our projects are mushroom oriented and natural.” He said adding that that they have a ready market in Ethiopia for their products like jam and tea and all their products are ‘gonadama’ blended which has high medicinal value.
Masinde Muliro University Vice Chancellor professor Fredrick Otieno applauded the launch of this project saying that its an opening to many more other research projects at the university.
“This project launch opens doors to more others in the university and I call upon university staff and students to engage in many more research projects for this contribute immensely to sustainable development to the livelihood of the community.”
The Vice Chancellor noted that the university is committed to support innovation and commercialization of the products given the fact that it’s a centre of excellence, adding that MMUSTMUG team is playing a critical role for the university towards realizing vision 2030 something worth emulation.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister for Education Kakamega County, Ebby Kavai said that Mushroom has protein produced naturally, easily available and easily affordable and can be used as an alternative in learning institutions, especially boarding schools for feeding children at a low cost instead of beans and red meat. “Mushroom is our tilapia and this project is an option if proper marketing and awareness creation is done for the institutions to buy the idea for the health of our school going children.”
The Minister said the Mushroom and Spirulina Project is an income generation venture and the county government will support it for this will help create employment opportunities for the people, thus changing their livelihoods and beyond.
She promised to engage the County health minister so that the products are distributed to the county’s health facilities for its important to live healthy and urged the community to feed their children in a healthy manner for quality education and the university students to be ambassadors of this project everywhere they go.
Students took this opportunity to showcase their projects.