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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Uganda’s Mushroom Mogul

Air Date: Week of May 7, 2004

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Host Bruce Gellerman visits with a woman in Uganda who is making it her up-and-coming business to grow oyster mushrooms – with a little help from homemade solar dryers.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: To see one of the most remarkable small business success stories in Uganda, you have to duck -- or you’ll get caught in the laundry.

[BIRD SONG UP AND UNDER]

GELLERMAN: Clothes hang in the courtyard of Peace Byanduskya’s home in rural Kabale, Uganda. It’s here the 36-year-old mother of four runs “Blessing Abide Enterprises.” Last year, Peace was named Ugandan Business Woman of the Year. Beneath the laundry is her latest venture.

BYANDUSKYA: Solar dryers. Very expensive.

GELLERMAN: Filling her courtyard are desk-size solar dryers. Now, in developed countries, solar dryers are hardly extraordinary. But in rural southwest Uganda, the simple devices -- made of wood, covered in clear and black plastic -- are an innovative technology providing lives and livelihoods for hundreds of peasants.

Solar dryers are set up in Byanduskya’s courtyard (Photo: Bruce Gellerman)

Peace builds the dryers from plans supplied by the U.N. and uses them to dehydrate oyster mushrooms. Five years ago, Peace Byanduskya was selling used clothing when she decided to become an oyster mushroom mogul, and began teaching peasants how to grow them.

BYANDUSKYA: I want to encourage people to venture into this project, which doesn’t need big capital to begin. It needs minimal land. So I would encourage people to venture into this activity so that we can at least uplift our standard of living.

GELLERMAN: Why mushrooms?

Byanduskya handles oyster mushrooms (Photo: Bruce Gellerman)

BYANDUSKYA: They are nutritional. They are medicinal. They are easy to grow. And I basically wanted to deal with the rural communities, those people who are so unfortunate.

[CLINKING BOTTLES, SPRAYING WATER]

GELLERMAN: Peace’s son sorts empty pint whiskey bottles that she buys from local bars. The bottles are sterilized and filled with sorghum to grow the oyster mushroom spores.

BYANDUSKYA: I sell this bottle at one thousand.

GELLERMAN: This is like the world headquarters! [LAUGHS]

BYANDUSKYA: Yeah, it is. [LAUGHS]

Peace Byanduskya at her home in Kabale, Uganda (Photo: Bruce Gellerman)

GELLERMAN: Peace learned how to grow mushrooms at an extension course in Oregon. She started a demonstration plot in her home, and business literally mushroomed. Today, she provides the raw materials, the growing medium, and trains the people who teach peasants how to grow the fungus. For their labors, the peasants get about $2 for a kilo of fresh mushrooms, and $16 a kilo for dried. So far, 700 people have been trained. Six hundred are women.

BYUNDUSKYA: Mostly it deals with cooking, collecting water and firewood, and normally women do that work. But men also trying. Because I’ve now trained 38 trainers, and we have two men – which is good, to me. People outside have success stories. They are improving day by day, and I believe we shall be okay.

GELLERMAN: Peace Byunduskya, managing director of Blessing Abide Enterprises, Kabale, Uganda. For pictures of Peace, her mushroom dryers -- and yes, her laundry – check out our Web site: loe.org.

 

 

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