Earning bread by Mushrooming your Pockets:Mushroom Development Foundation

. by Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma

Earning bread by Mushrooming your Pockets:Mushroom Development Foundation
Here is the story of an organisation called MDF (Mushroom Development Foundation) based in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, India who are helping farmers to be self sustaining and wealthy through mushroom farming.
The coolest gift you can give someone is self empowerment; that is, you help them to develop skills and by that they create wealth for themselves. Thats what MDF did and is still doing. Youth Leader Asian Edition volunteer Damilola Balogun has the story for you.

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Button Mushroom Post Harvesting in Meghalaya by Khasi Mushroom Farmers

MDF was registered in 1997 though it has been carrying out its activities since 1995. The mission of this awesome organization is to establish a new economic system with technology intervention that will bring together the marginal farming community and the poor vendors in the urban areas for gaining better negotiating power in the market on a sustainable basis. The entry point into the market would be by using mushrooms and then subsequently assorting mushrooms with other commodities produced by marginal farmers.

A Khasi Mushroom Farm

The state Assam which possesses the lowest per capital GDP growth in India makes them behind in the affluence arena. In Assam 64% of the population depend on farming for their income but agriculture only accounts for less than 4% of the states GDP. The farmers in Assam work hand to mouth earning little or no income.
Farmers face the problem of either being exploited or being blocked from certain markets in which cartels have formed, the farmers’ difficulties are further aggravated by the progressive reductions of their land holdings.
Who knew mushroom farming could be the solution to all these problems as well as increase a farmer’s income? Well, THE awesome organisation MDF was definitely thinking about it and they were planning to bring innovative models and programs to help farmers sustain themselves and also earn extra income on the side.
Imagine their vision of increasing 20,000 small farmers income from Rs.500 to Rs.4000 as well as raise income of 5,000 poor urban workers by 2015. MDF is sure stepping up their efforts in creating a massive social impact. The most amazing news is that they have embarked on this mission already. Their enterprising model ensures that hard work is rewarding and that the project is truly and fully self sustaining for the farmers.

Practical Session on Mushroom Cultivation by Pranjal Baruah

Through vigorous campaigns led by MDF, mushroom farming has been popularized in and around the surrounding villages of Guwahati to those who have never tasted it; introducing them to wedding receptions, to those who do not know the nutritional as well as the economic value of mushrooms. They have encouraged farmers to resort to mushroom farming as an alternative to other types of farming because of its economical features; it does not require much land for cultivation. Land holdings have been a prevailing problem for the farmers.
You might wonder about MDF’s capability in reaching out to these farmers in the villages; well thanks to the spirited, ever energetic and loving positive change volunteers of MDF as they have been leading these active campaigns on how to grow and sell mushrooms to earn income in a self sustaining manner.
MDF did not stop at showing farmers how to grow mushrooms; they help them create market linkages to the city so that they can sell their produce and earn income. They have also organised workshops where young people from the villages are trained on comic illustrations to further create awareness about the profitability & productivity of growing the crop.

Pranjal with Mr Bhuyan, blind volunteer, during a workshop held in Guwahati

This wonderful organisation, recently on the 22nd of July, 20011 trained Blind farmers and other participants on the step by step process of mushroom cultivation. . Mr Bhuyan a blind volunteer was taken through the whole process. He was courageous and committed to carry it forward so that a lot of blind people will be benefited by this effort and he will start cultivation of mushroom and help MDF in preparing a hand books for the blind from documentation of his learning’s.
As MDF keeps getting more farmers and villages into their programme, social and economic development are coming to this communities and there is an increased demand for skilled labour. Efforts are being made to train and develop the required skilled labour the city and community require to expand. Talk about “mushrooming your pockets” i.e alleviating poverty through mushroom farming.

Pranjal Baruah

Enough on our perspective, our volunteer Damilola had an interview with Pranjal Baruah (Ashoka Fellow awarded in 2003 for empowering farmers for lab to land strategy) Founder and CFO (General Secretary and the Executive Coordinator) of MDF with 17 years of experience in Mushroom cultivation, areas of Rural Development & Entrepreneurship.

Youth Leader: How many communities so far have benefited positively from MDF projects?
Pranjal Baruah: We have affected over 5 states in India and in Assam alone we have about 4 districts with several clusters. We have over 2,000 farmers who are registered under our model spread across india. They have also benefited in terms of training and awareness, easy access to quality planting materials, organising micro-entreprenuers to distribute and process the produce of the farmers, grants and loans to the farmers, financial benefits to all players when production is attained and surplus are used to bring in more farmers into the system and also social welfare for them.
Youth Leader: What has been your overall performance?
Pranjal Baruah: From 1995-2006, MDF’s has grown from 20,000 Kg to 6, 00,000 Kg per annum of mushroom in NER, involving host of collaborators direct benefit reaching out to 3000 small farmers, creating awareness among several   people across North East India, touching Bhutan, North Bengal and Bangladesh, from 2006-2009, over 2,000 farmers, more than 19 geographical areas and over 12 tribes have benefited.
Youth Leader: What is MDF’s strategy in empowering farmers?
Pranjal Baruah: In 2008 emphasis was given to creating farmers and federation’s infrastructure for commercial cultivation both in hard ware and soft ware components. Since 2006 to 2009, we have had over 3,000 farmers registered under the federation.

Mushroom Farmers

Youth Leader: What other projects are MDF involved in?
Pranjal Baruah: Apart from helping farmers grow mushrooms, we are also committed to providing trainings and skill gradation for the farmers, developing new technological and innovative models to increase and boost farmers’ income, we organise cooking classes and Competitions, conduct seminars with doctors and nutritionists, involvement in trade fairs and organising workshops.
Youth Leader: What are the future plans of MDF?
Pranjal Baruah: To reach 17 clusters in total by 31st March 2012 covering more than 2000 farmers in 4 states of North East India develop an interactive website with real time MIS and GIS systems with community based organization gradually taking better control of the agro-economy of the farmers from the existing system! The system to be replicable and once the working principals are standardize it can have a worldwide ripple effect.

Pranjal and members from one of the communities

Youth Leader: How can other countries benefit from MDF projects?
Pranjal Baruah: Simple. They can contact MDF by emailing us. And we’ll share it all with them.
Like Pranjal said already, MDF model can be replicated anywhere in the world. Why not wake up to this call and begin to popularise mushroom farming in your community? Help farmers in your community increase their income; you too can increase your income.
For further reading:
Original Article Was Published At: http://www.asia.youth-leader.org/?p=5102
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About the author
Damilola Balogun: She is a graduate of English and Education; loves putting smiles on the faces of people and she is an ardent lover for positive change. Hence, she is a volunteer with youth leader magazine. She loves playing volleyball, reading, arts and designing. She is currently pursuing a career in graphics designing. She believes in the power of self discovery as a tool towards utilizing our potentials. Mail-> damilola.balogun.youthleader@gmail.com
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