Initial Success from Mushroom Cultivation Project in Thanh Hoi Commune, Tan Lac District, Hoa Binh Province
Around ten years ago, acacia was identified as having a high economic value, bringing immediate profits to the farmers. This resulted in local people deforesting vast areas of established forest land to grow the acacia instead, which in the short-term produced healthy profit. Unfortunately it didn’t take many years for the acacia to show its weaknesses as an economical project; firstly, with a considerable drop in price it is no longer profitable, secondly, it is much more prone to diseases, and most importantly it impedes the production of rice due to both requiring vast amounts of water. Therefore the project conclusion was that it was unsustainable and non-profitable leaving communes to look for an alternative means of income.
Recognizing this situation, the Center for Environment and Community Asset Development (CECAD) investigated how these communes were operating, deducting that:- People were normally busy during the harvest period but had no other work for the rest of the year.- After harvest rice straw was burnt, only small amounts were being kept to feed livestock in case of a shortage of grass.- Local people traditionally eat mushrooms which they picked from the forest where they grew naturally. Nowadays due to environmental changes and deforestation, there are no longer any mushrooms.After these investigations CECAD found a new mushroom cultivation technology that would be beneficial to use in Tu Ne and Thanh Hoi as it works with the old rice straw. The process is simple and suited to local people’s ability as well as local conditions. CECAD organized meetings and encouraged local people to learn about this technology by organising trips to the Huong Nam Mushroom Center in Ninh Binh, where these ideas originated from. The result was that people believed they could have a career in growing mushrooms and they could rely on CECAD’s supervision and assistance. Starting the project, CECAD held meetings with representatives of households who shared a desire to improve family economy by growing mushrooms. The meetings drew the following conclusions: in the 1st year Nhot village in Thanh Hoi would be used as an experimentation area that could be focused and supported, so that other households could observe, learn and then replicate ideas and practices in the 2nd year. The meetings were public, democratic and the programs were practically beneficial, resulting in an attraction of five more households joining the program.As most of the 20 members of the program had economic difficulties, CECAD supported them with cash imbursements to cover the cost of the materials required to start up the projects. This was under the agreement that once these initial projects generated capital, members would circulate funds to other households and so ensuring equal opportunity for all members.In the first season, the process of collecting, drying and processing the straw was inefficient as experience was minimal, meaning that there was only enough for 10 households to be able to grow mushrooms. After three months of collaboration among local people, experts and CECAD, the project has achieved initial successes:- The preliminary 10 households are producing goods- Average output of each household is 200 kilograms of fresh mushrooms- Average price for each kilogram of mushroom is VND 25,000- All the picked mushrooms were consumed Drawing on these successes, residents of the commune understood the practical benefits of mushroom cultivation, with the result that many more households wished to join the project. They proposed for CECAD to continue supporting the development of these projects in the region. In Tu Ne commune it was proposed that the mushroom cultivation could be done on a bigger scale to help them not only alleviate hunger but also to increase household income.In both Tu Ne and Thanh Hoi if all the resources are used for mushroom cultivation, however, local markets will not be big enough to consume the total products grown. To resolve this CECAD has contacted several companies and organizations in Hanoi to create a stable channel with sufficient demands to ensure all supply is purchased at a fair price. If the project is successful, it can contribute to the reduction of poverty whilst also protecting the environment and will be a new direction in terms of economic development for people in Tu Ne and Thanh Hoi.