The winter chill in Kapilvastu brings out a smile on Shanti Chaudary’s face. The cooler months from September to March in the Terai are the best time for cultivating mushrooms – Shanti’s specialty – without air-conditioning. Mushroom farming is a women-led activity in Shanti’s village Bunchi. These Tharu women are highly regarded in the community for providing to their families, especially their children education. As income earners, they are also more economically independent, a major achievement in Nepal.
Shanti and her neighbors grow Oyster mushrooms because of their market demand. On average, Shanti produces about 15-20 kg of mushrooms a day and sell them at Rs120 to wholesalers and Rs170 to retailers. She sells either to buyers who come to her house or in bulk orders in the market. To make up for the low price, she also delivers mushrooms by bicycle and sell them door-to-door on a daily basis. “I can make an additional Rs50 per kg with this extra work.”
Naturally savvy, Shanti and the other mushroom farmers in her village are mostly self-taught. While admirable, the lack of any training in mushroom farming per se have limited their earnings and opportunities. To address this gap, the World Bank’s Program for the Buddhist circuit Development in South Asia is providing Shanti and her neighbors with business development support for them to come together as a group and improve their farming and market capabilities.
With the support of a mushroom trainer from SeedLand Nepal, the Tharu entrepreneurs are having access to price negotiation role play sessions in addition to specific techniques to improve their production. For the entrepreneurs, growing mushrooms means a sustainable income. With smiles on their face, they say: “We no longer rely only on our fields and trees for income; now we also grow it in mushroom bags!”