Essar Foundation has been making efforts in enhancing better working opportunities in the rural belt of India. As a progression of its efforts, Essar Foundation embarked on a Mission of bringing in Entrepreneurship. The Vizag operations- Dantewada team, in order to generate sustainable alternative livelihood, have been promoting Agro-Entrepreneurs. Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus Florida) cultivation is one such initiative.
Keeping in mind the high demand of Mushrooms which is being globally promoted as a “Super food” by nutritionist. The current market value of per Kg of mushrooms can be between Rs.150/-to Rs.200/-. It is rich in Vitamin C and B complex. The protein content in the mushrooms varies between 1.6 to 2.5 percent. It also has most of the essential minerals, folic acid and iron required by the human body.
Essar Foundation Team partnered with District Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Jagdalpur, for providing the technical know-how and also for ensuring the availability of good quality of spawns. One small-scale mushroom cultivation unit has been started at a School in Para-Kalepal.
The cultivation of Oyster mushroom is economically viable because the input cost is low and income/profit margin is very good. The cultivation process does not require any machines or equipment and the methodology is very simple. In rural areas, the requisite raw materials and facilities are easily available and requires only labor work, supervision and care. The farmers, as per space availability, have prepared a total of 45 bundles of paddy straw/hay, the base for mushroom cultivation. In order to ensure high yields and a rich harvest, Essar Foundation organized a training program, with topics covering overall process of cultivation, precautions (do’s and don’ts), environment-cleanliness, humidity, and protection from disease in the yield.
Mushroom cultivation requires a Cold and humid temperature which is essential for its growth. Hence in South-Bastar of Chhattisgarh, September to February is the best time for its growth. Also, this is the time of paddy crop so paddy straw as substrate is easily available from fields. Essar Foundation introduced this mushroom cultivation technique about two years ago. The locals have been used to picking up ‘Futu-long mushroom’, a variety which is self-grown near the roots of shady big trees and found mostly in the forest area. Essar Foundation’s initiative to bring in a change in mindset and create an opportunity for better cultivation by educating the villagers on the requirements for a good harvest. With good quality Grain Spawn available at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Jagdalpur which is about 140 kms, away from Kirandul the project village, Essar Foundation’s initiative has added to as an alternative means of livelihood and also to their protein diet. At the pilot run project we had 15 members cultivating the crop during the season which was sold at Rs 200/- per kg in local market at Kirandul. The team is now exploring means to scale up the initiative.