The Mushroom Development Foundation plans to set up seven clusters in the state with an expert panel in each of them for supervision to help mushroom cultivators boost production.
Monitoring committees have already been constituted in four of these clusters, each comprising 60 to 100 farmers, with a target of producing 5kg mushroom a day by a farmer. These include Merapani, Komargaon, Digboi and Makum.
Three more clusters, Nagrijuli, Chandrapur and Boko are in the developing process.
Launched in 1995, the foundation aims to establish an innovative economic system among the farming community by bridging the gap between the farmers and the growing market.
In 2005, the foundation had set up five clusters in the Northeast — Sonapur and Makum in Assam, Khonama in Nagaland, Tura in Meghalaya and Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh.
The cluster at Sonapur, which involves 50 villages, is the biggest with 1,000 trainees where 200 mushroom-growing houses were set up.
The foundation’s general secretary Pranjal Baruah, said: “We are working in a phased manner. After setting up these panels, the next step is to train these farmers. The idea is to begin production in all the 12 clusters by December 15.”
Till last year, production was 50,000kg but for 2010, the foundation has set a target to generate 80,000kg of mushroom.
For the five clusters in the Northeast set up in 2005, a cluster monitoring committee was set up last month to supervise and execute the activities of the farmers.
“The objective of this committee is to establish a system of community participation that brings in representatives of government, corporate houses and social workers of the community for improving their condition . The main emphasis is given on the quality and quantity of the spawn,” Baruah said.
Targeting the small and marginal farmers, the foundation reaches out to farmers having less than four bighas of land. These clusters mainly comprise women as there is a lot of scope in developing employment opportunities. According to R.P. Tiwari, former director, directorate of Mushroom Research (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), the project offers an ideal opportunity for empowerment of rural women.
The project focuses on enabling rural women engage in mushroom cultivation and entrepreneurship for poverty alleviation. The project also involves a day’s training for 60 to 100 farmers in mushroom cultivation.
One semi-permanent mushroom growing and processing house for every 10 cultivators will be given. A mushroom cultivation kit that includes an initial amount of mushroom spawn, some plastic growing bags and ropes will be supplied. One sterilising and boiling drum for every five farmers and one hand water sprayer for every two will also be provided.
The foundation has been appointed as the consultant of department of horticulture, government of Assam, this September.
The number of trained hands is not adequate and the production is still made on a smaller scale. Fresh mushrooms are consumed and marketed by the clusters locally, while the dry mushrooms are sold at some of the outlets under the foundation’s brand name, Mushfill.