Bangladesh is blessed with so many natural resources, and its climatic condition is also very beneficial for any kind of crop. In the context of Bangladesh, when we think to start a business, the first thing that came to our mind is the capital and particular skills.
Like Dhonpoti Tripura in this story, now mushroom cultivation can be a good option for those who do not have enough money, skills and land.
Dhonpoti Tripura is a Bangladeshi tribal woman belonging to a lower-middle-class family from Bandarban. She has now become a successful entrepreneur in her community through mushroom cultivation. It has not only changed her life but also become a blessing for her. She tried to spread the knowledge of mushroom cultivation in her community among both men and women.
Many of them got inspiration from her and started mushroom cultivation. But her journey with it was not easy as a woman in the context of Bangladesh, since women like her have cultural taboo and negativity towards the mushroom. But Dhonpoti Tripura overcame all the obstacles with the support of her family, especially her husband Jagotchandra Tripura, who is also very hopeful about the business.
He said, “My dream was to work with mushroom, and today we can make that dream come true. In the future, we want to create employment opportunities for the youth in this sector.”
At the very beginning, she received a three-day training for mushroom cultivation from Balaghata Horticulture Centre in 2006. After the completion of course, she got 10 packets of mushroom spawn free of cost from the Horticulture Centre. Then she started the cultivation in one corner of her courtyard. Without any financial help from government or non-government institutions, she started her journey with very little capital. From that day, she has a firm belief in herself that she can do it.
At present, she is successfully continuing her mushroom cultivation by the support from family and a microcredit loan from a bank.
In the 14 years of a long journey, she has gone through so many ups and downs with this farming. She has chosen this cultivation as it is, according to her, a women-friendly earning source that consumes a very little time and capital.
After buying spawn pockets, one has to keep those in a dark room with fresh oxygen, high humidity, and often cooler temperature. After placing the spawn packets, they need to be cut in some places with a blade. For the care of those packets, it requires to spray water two or three times daily according to temperature. In the context of Bangladesh, the oyster mushroom is popular for cultivation because it is possibly the easiest variety of mushrooms to grow and yields throughout the year.
After fed by water and nutrients from the mycelium, they start to grow rapidly within five to seven days. Oyster mushrooms are ready to harvest just seven days after starting to grow out of the bag. With proper care and use of materials, yield can be obtained from each spawn of mushroom for up to three months. Dhonpoti produces and sells two to three kg of mushrooms on an average every day. She sells it at Tk 200-300 per kg in the local market. She is earning an average of 15-20 thousand taka per month by selling mushrooms.
From the very beginning, Dhonpoti had to hear a lot of harsh words from the people around her as they have negative ideas about eating mushrooms and its marketing. It is very unfortunate that there is no publicity about mushroom cultivation and marketing in Bangladesh still now.
She said, "Many people do not even know the methods of eating mushrooms and its benefits. So when we go to sell, first we have to dispel the misconceptions and inform them of its benefits. Sometimes, it becomes so challenging for us and we have to give it free for gaining the belief of our customers."
Sometimes, it becomes difficult to market the products to the customers who are away from many other places in Bandarban. She doesn't even have online marketing knowledge. She has no proper channel to work and communicate with other mushroom farmers for any kind of help as there is no such business support wing in Bandarban. She has to struggle a lot for taking a loan from banks as the mushroom is not cultivated popularly over the country.
Bangladesh, one of the fast-growing and densely populated countries in the world, is suffering from protein malnutrition with a high proportion of poverty. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 21.8 per cent population lives under the poverty line. On the other hand, the number of unemployed people is 2.68 million out of which 1.33 million are female.
According to ELSEVIER journal research, almost all the arable area of the country is already under cultivation, there is a limited scope for expanding the cropland and cropping intensity. Under this situation, mushroom cultivation can be new hope for Bangladesh considering the unemployment problem, climatic condition, and land scarcity. Although having some problems during production and marketing, there is a huge prospect of mushroom business in Bangladesh.
Mushrooms cultivation may be a ‘lifeboat’ for the survival of the marginal landless people, especially for the rural women who want to support their families as well as want to empower themselves, mushroom cultivation can be one of the lucrative jobs for rural women in our country.
Based on the above facts, government and non-government organisations have to come forward to support the mushroom farmers through strengthening technical support, easy capital supply, the establishment of market structure, promotion of mushrooms in new areas, and more extension programmes to increase the production and campaign for its consumption.
Every struggling person has many bitter stories like Dhonpoti Tripura, but she did not stop dreaming. She believes, “If you want to do any work, you have to have faith in yourself and love for work, then no one will ever fail.”
Labanya Bhowmik is a current student at the faculty of Agricultural Economics at Bangladesh Agricultural University.