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Final Dissemination Workshop of the Australian Direct Aid Mushroom Project has been held at Ayumso in the Brong-Ahafo Region

Project Background

The project, titled “Sawdust for mushroom cultivation in Ayum Forest area, Brong-Ahafo region” was funded by the Australian High Commission in Accra through the Direct Aid Program (DAP) with co-funding from CSIR – FRI. The running title of the project was Australian Direct Aid Mushroom Project (Aus-DAMP).

In Ghana, Ayum forest is one of the areas with a thriving timber industry resulting in the production of large quantities of sawdust. The sawdust is either burnt, left unused or minimally used for charcoal production, creating serious environmental pollution problems including the production of greenhouse gases, which would eventually contribute to climate change issues. However, sawdust is a very useful resource for mushroom cultivation for improved nutrition, health and income generation. Spent mushroom substrates (SMSs; the compost left after mushroom cultivation) is also beneficial for vegetable cultivation as biofertilizers of soil.

The objective of the project was therefore “to set up the mushroom cultivation industry in Ayum area through training in mushroom cultivation using sawdust and provision of 2 complete mushroom cultivation facilities with rain water harvesting to beneficiaries in 2 communities in the area”. The project was aimed at building capacity of women and girls in two communities around the forest in mushroom cultivation using sawdust, alleviating poverty, improving nutritional status and livelihoods and minimizing environmental pollution caused by improper disposal of sawdust in the area.

Led by Mrs. Deborah Louisa Narh Mensah, a research scientist at the Mushroom Research Lab of the Microbiology and Mushroom Research Division, the project’s expected outputs included training of 2 beneficiary groups on mushroom cultivation using sawdust and use of SMSs for vegetable cultivation, provision of mushroom cultivation start-up materials, and construction of one complete set of mushroom cultivation facilities with rainwater harvesting facilities in each of the beneficiary communities (Ayumso and Bediako). These facilities included: One Composting Platform, One Bagging Shed with store, One 10,000 bag capacity Incubation Room with rainwater harvesting facilities, One 4,000 bag capacity Cropping House with rainwater harvesting facilities, Two Sterilization Units and One fabricated Sun Drier.

The project team members were;

    1. Prof. Mrs. Mary Obodai, Director; Team member
    2. Dr. Charles Tortoe, Deputy-Director; Team member;
    3. Mrs. Deborah Louisa Narh Mensah, Research Scientist; Project Lead
    4. Ms. Matilda Dzomeku, Research Scientist; Team member
    5. Mr. Richard Takli, Technologists; Team member
    6. Mrs. Regina Tsotsoo, Project Accountant
    7. Mr. Eric Ofori, Project Administrator

CSIR – FRI partnered with the District offices of Ministry of Food and Agriculture as well as the Forestry Commission in Goaso to execute the project.

The Final Dissemination Workshop

The Final Dissemination Workshop was held on 27th March 2018 at Ayumso as a final activity of the project to bring all stakeholders together to share learnings on the project and formally inaugurate and hand over all facilities to the beneficiaries at the two communities, and to hold an exhibition. The theme for the Workshop was, “Mushroom Cultivation: Empowering Women for Improved Livelihoods and Environmental Sustainability”

The program was attended by Dr. Charles Tortoe (Deputy Director, CSIR – FRI); Third Secretary Claire Maizonnier who represented H.E Andrew Barnes (the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana); Mr. Eric Osei Aduamah (The Municipal Director of Agriculture, MoFA); Mrs. Grace Gyabaah (Asst. District Manager, Forestry Commission, Goaso); all project team members with the exception of the Director and the project accountant, Chiefs and Elders of Ayumso and Bediako Communities, the beneficiaries from the two beneficiary communities, the press and some members of the general public. The program was chaired by Mr. Aduamah. 

In his Chairman’s acceptance speech, Mr. Aduamah commended the CSIR – FRI and the Australian High Commission for conceptualizing and funding this project as it had been his dream for a project to be carried out in the Goaso area to support the use of sawdust, which is in high abundance in the Ayum forest area, to produce a useful product which will provide an alternative source of income and improve livelihoods. He urged the beneficiaries to hold on to the facilities constructed to them and make sure the outcomes of the project do not become a one-day-wonder. He said this way, he envisaged the impact of the project will be far reaching.

Mr. Aduamah giving his chairman's acceptance speech

A welcome address was given by a representative of the chief of Ayumso. The team were warmly welcomed and thanked for selecting Ayumso as a beneficiary community under the project for improved livelihood and environmental sustainability.

In the speech read by the Deputy Director on behalf of the Director, Prof. (Mrs) Mary Obodai, Dr. Tortoe gave the background of the project and stated the outputs of the project. In relation to sustainability of the project beyond the project’s lifespan, he informed the attendants about the fact that the 2 mushroom cultivation beneficiaries have already sold their harvested mushrooms from compost bags produced during the training phase and reinvested their proceeds to restock their facilities. He also thanked the project partners, MoFA and Forestry commission for their support during the implementation of the project. Ending the speech, he said “I hope that the mushroom industry which has been set-up here through this project expand towards product development and even export and eventually, would be replicated in other forest areas in Ghana.”

 

In the speech presented on behalf of the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ms Maizonnier congratulated Mrs. Mensah and the project team on the successful completion of the project despite initial challenges. She said “We at the Australian High Commission value our partnership with you and we thank you for the opportunity provided us under the mushroom cultivation project to extend the benefits of Australia’s development assistance efforts to Ayumso, Bediako and surrounding communities.” She highlighted the fact that MRs. Mensah is a beneficiary of the Australia Awards Scholarship program and stated that Mrs. Mensah’s progress is a “great example of the potential the Award provides and the opportunity for the broader community if awardees put what they have learnt into practice”. She thanked all stakeholders for their support and immense contribution on the project. She encouraged beneficiaries to take very good care of all the facilities they had received under the project and to work diligently with the knowledge and skills acquired to ensure that the project’s intervention yields maximum benefits to them, their families and their communities at large.

Her speech was followed by a speech read by Mrs. Grace Gyabaah on behalf of the District Manager, Forestry Commission, Goaso, she stated that the project “is a step in the right direction because pressure on forest and the many people who depend on the forest for livelihood will be reduced. It also provides a broader spectrum for utilizing wood waste. The Forest Services Division therefore fully supports this initiative and wishes that all and sundry will be involved in the cultivation either as source of livelihood or as source of food.” She commended CSIR-FRI and the Australian Aid for this laudable initiative.

 

 

The speeches were followed by some statements by the beneficiaries. These included;

“I initially did not see how this project will be beneficial until we started harvesting and selling our fresh mushrooms and realising the kind of revenue we could generate within a week from sale of fresh mushrooms. I will remain fully involved in this activity to ensure the benefits from the project are sustained”

 “I barely had any source of income to go by. I have realised that the mushroom cultivation can provide me an alternative source of income to improve my livelihood. This is a very good venture.” 

A mushroom farmer at Goaso who purchases her compost bags from Techiman made a remark in which she encouraged the beneficiaries to hold on to this business venture because it is very rewarding, stating that the venture can be very challenging but they should be steadfast and resolve all matters which may arise amicably in order to ensure they reap the expected benefits.

There was also an exhibition stand which had various dishes prepared with fresh oyster mushrooms as well as copies of the training handout and training handbook published on the project.

The mushroom cultivation facilities in the two beneficiary communities (Ayumso and Bediako) were inaugurated. The inauguration was done by Ms. Maizonnier supported by Dr. Charles Tortoe and the respective leaders of the beneficiaries as well as some community leaders, following which the facilities were inspected. The facilities were then officially handed over to the respective beneficiaries.

 

 

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