An employee of La GIC Champignon serves a bag of mushrooms in Bafoussam, on June 3, 2022 (AFP/Daniel Beloumou Olomo)
Grilled on skewers, dryer or hair oil: In Bafoussam in western Cameroon, farmers are trying to diversify outlets for the mushrooms they grow on agricultural waste.
Mushroom farming, or the cultivation of edible mushrooms, long developed in the West and especially in China, by far the world’s leading product, is still very rare in Africa even if it has the advantage of producing food by recycling “clean” waste and Free or almost free.
Cameroonians are especially fond of them but they have to wait for the rainy season to catch them in the wild. In Bafoussam, the capital of the Western Region and the third largest city in the country, Jean-Claude Youpi discovered the vein there, like other small entrepreneurs in this vast country of 28 million people.
Thousands of oyster mushrooms grow in the darkroom of a joint initiative group called GIC Champignon, which launched with partners four years ago in Bafoussam. They are grown in rows on shelves above agricultural waste packed in plastic bags.
“We at GIC Mushroom House” are proud to launch Mr. Yobe. “Some like these have gone through a harvest,” explains one of his aide, Patrick Yapetio, pushing aside a pile of yellow mushrooms instead of the usual white. Then he bags the good day’s produce and heads to the GIC store towards the center of Bafoussam.
There, a kilo is sold for 2,000 CFA francs (3 euros), while its price reaches 3,500 in Yaounde, the capital, or Douala, the economic capital.
– corn cobs –
It is difficult to get an idea of the size and weight of the sector because there are no official national data on this production and consumption.
The constant comings and goings permeate GIC Champignon’s life. In a small room, two young apprentices are shoveling a pile of agricultural waste.
An employee prepares a maize substrate that will serve as a basis for mushroom growth, in Bafoussam on June 3, 2022 (AFP/Daniel Bellomo Olomo)
For this soilless crop, “we mixed the corn cobs (the back of the cob) with nutrients like bran, wheat flour, and beef blood,” explains Bryce Nono Jomo, production manager. “We added a fungicide to it to avoid the bad fungus,” he adds, assuring that its effects wear off after two weeks, long before the fungus grows.
Once the mixture is made, this substrate is sterilized, placed in barrels and heated over a wood fire. Then cool and distribute in bags. After inserting the seed, the bags are placed in the mushroom house. It will take 30 days for the first feet to appear.
“I was amazed to discover this way of growing mushrooms,” 12-year-old Junior Yogib told Jr. This 6th grader is using his school vacation for an internship at GIC Champignon. “I learned to prepare the substrate … I want to know everything,” asserts the teenager, swearing to integrate an agricultural school after receiving his baccalaureate. “I aspire to launch my own production and be independent,” says Leah Tuna, another Yaoundé intern.
– ‘Mushroom whiskey’ –
Every three months, for the duration of the cultivation campaign, the Global Industry Center in Bafoussam produces 300 to 400 kg of mushrooms, 80% of which are sold directly to consumers and the rest turns into oils for the body or hair, soap, juice and even into the oil liqueur provided by Mr. Yobe “Mushroom Whiskey.” “.
An employee prepares the cultural base, at the Champignon GIC in Bafoussam, June 3, 2022 (AFP/Daniel Beloumou Olomo)
In his small GIC laboratory, he grinds part of the crop in a blender to obtain juice that is combined with the other elements of these by-products.
“For cosmetic oils, we can add snail slime and fragrance to give a good smell,” he says without revealing his secrets: “We are in the promotion stage. For hair oil, we are giving boxes to some hairdressers to try.”
Corn substrate, the main ingredient for fungal breeding, in Bafoussam on June 3, 2022 (AFP/Daniel Bellomo Olomo)
“It smoothes the hair and makes it grow back, treating dandruff and hair breakage,” explains Josiane Sogo at her hair salon.
But some prefer to taste it. “I am a very big consumer of mushrooms, especially their offal. It is a vegetarian meat that takes me away from many dangers,” Barthelemy Chomchoa advances by putting on a skewer of his favorite dish, which is rich in proteins and vitamins B2, B3, B5 and D. Thanks to the breeding of mushrooms, “we can eat them on year-round,” he said.