White mushrooms in purple punnets sit are looking great on the shelves of the Naivas supermarket in Nairobi. The mushrooms are the handiwork of Maurice Ikonya and tens of other young farmers, who supply them through their association to the retail chain.
The supermarket is one of the main customers of the Mushroom Growers Association of Kenya, of which Ikonya is the vice-chairman. “We get 250-300kg of mushrooms every week from our 100 members in 23 counties and distribute them to supermarkets and hotels where we are listed as suppliers,” he says.
Maurice Ikonya’s mushroom farm in Kangemi, Nairobi, hosts some 300 plastic bags with 645-665 mushroom plants at various stages of growth. Inside the mud-walled structure, Ikonya grows the mushrooms in plastic bags. Some of them are neatly arranged on the floor and others on wooden shelves he has erected.
“I started the business over a year ago with Sh150,000 from my savings,” says Ikonya, who holds a Diploma in Project Management from the Kenya Institute of Management Studies. “The money was enough to purchase 50 bales of wheat straw, cotton seed cake, molasses, urea and chicken manure to make the substrate on which the mushrooms grow.”
Nation.co.ke reports that besides the Naivas supermarket, the mushrooms are also sold at Jacaranda Hotel and groceries in Nairobi, but Ikonya and the rest of the members of the association are currently spreading wings to Nakuru, Kajiado, Kisumu and Laikipia.