Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Ground broken for mushroom house

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
Contributed Photo Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) and Food for the Poor, breaking ground for mushroom house in George North, Spaldings
Tamara Bailey Photo From left: Network of Women vice president, Denise Walter, board member Rose Bennett, executtive director, Pauline Smith; Food For the Poor representative. Tena Turner-–Thomas, Valerie Dixon, Jennifer Sharrier, Marsha Burrel, from JN Foundation, Ruth Chisolm and Gretta Forrest, treasurer for Network of Women.

Work to transform and create income opportunities for rural women began on Monday, September 29, when the Network of Women for Food Security (NOW), Food for The Poor and Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) broke ground for a mushroom house at the George North Farm in Manchester.

The first prototype mushroom house to be outfitted with classrooms, labs, offices, bathrooms and a kitchen, will be utilised by 25 groups of contracted farmers, with each group consisting of a minimum of five women.

"The idea is that we train five women in a cell and they will be given one mushroom house, which will come with 60 ready-to-grow mushroom bags/kits ... each bag will produce seven pounds of mushrooms per flush and there are five flushes before you discard the bag, so 35 pounds can be received from one bag," explained NOW Executive Director Pauline Smith.

Described as a centralised market in a distribution system, the mushrooms will be bought back from the contract farmers at $250 per pound and then distributed to customers, resulting in a minimum profit of $7,000 per week for farmers.

"The production process begins two weeks after mushroom bags are received with an additional six weeks before harvesting, so it's a high-value, quick turnaround crop, perfect for women to grow and requires minimal land space," said Smith.

The project is estimated to cost J$57 million dollars and Food for The Poor is the biggest contributor, providing not just a prototype house, but eight-by-eight plywood houses, which will house 60 bags of mushrooms managed by several women.

Employment for women

"With this mushroom initiative, which is a first for us, we saw the number of women it would help and we were happy, because it's a rural area where several persons are unemployed, and what better way to help people than provide employment for them," said Tena Turner-Thomas, project writer, Agriculture and Fisheries Department,

Food for The Poor.

According to Jennifer Sharrier, project manager SEBI/Jamaica National (JN) Foundation, SEBI will be

providing business development and capacity-building

aid, which will result in

profitability and social impact for this group of women with the novel idea of producing and distributing mushroom and mushroom products

locally and internationally.

Other sponsors include NOW Bamboo, community stakeholders, the United States Agency for International Development and JN Foundation.