Heritage Assam, an NGO, has recently launched a training programme for tea garden youths to educate them on mushroom cultivation in view of frequent incidents of mushroom poisoning in the areas.
The president of Heritage Assam, P.C. Tamuly, said mushrooms were widely consumed by the tea community but mistakes were common while gathering the edible fungus from the wilds.
A number of deaths occurred especially during the rainy season when the mushrooms sprouted.
“Heritage Assam decided that a training programme on how to differentiate between poisonous and non-poisonous varieties should be taken up in the tea garden areas and in the first phase, 16 youths were selected from the tea gardens of Jorhat,” he said.
The gardens selected were Sangsua, Mohbandha, Murmuria, Duklungia, Sycotta, Heeleakah, Kothalgoorie, Gatonga, and Hatigarh.
A.K. Bordoloi, scientist, North East Institute of Science and Technology here, provided the knowhow of mushroom cultivation, and the institute also provided the basic raw material for cultivation.
In Assam’s Golaghat district, more than 20 people had died after consuming poisonous mushrooms in 2008.
The government had then ordered a probe into the incident.
In 2011, 11 people had died in Lakhimpur district of mushroom poisoning and two each in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.
Tamuly said mushrooms were not only good to eat but also a very good source of protein and other minerals in small quantities.
“In the tea garden areas, it is often seen that people suffer from malnutrition and deficiency diseases. Therefore, consuming mushrooms can make up for this deficit in a large measure. Incidents of mushroom poisoning can be reduced if the edible mushrooms are cultivated and consumed and the youths can supplement their income and earn a livelihood,” he said.
Tamuly said tea gardens of other districts would be included in the next phase.
The North East Small Scale Industries Association also imparted training to nearly 30 youths in mushroom cultivation in Jorhat with the help of NEIST and Pranjal Baruah, mushroom entrepreneur, Guwahati.
“Mushrooms do not need land and require a very small area to be cultivated. They can be kept in any room and stacked on top of each other. With a little care a person can earn anything between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000 per month if the crop is good,” he said.
Baruah added that mushrooms are a cheap supplement for protein and had high export value.
The entrepreneur is at present involved in developing mushroom cluster villages all over the Northeast.