Photo of oyster mushrooms growing out of holes in polythene bag

The mushrooms making a difference in Uganda!

Paul Ssenteza, Development Manager at our partners Signhealth Uganda, reports on the pilot project which is inspiring parents and helping them to provide for their deaf children…

From mushrooms to school materials

A group of parents and guardians of children with hearing impairments has received training on how to grow Oyster mushrooms. With mentoring, these parents have successfully harvested mushrooms from both their joint enterprise and adventurous individual initiatives.

Photo of Betty tending her mushroomsBetty, who has five children, including David who is deaf, says: “I am extremely happy that my mushrooms were able to flourish and I am able to earn some money from them. This will help my disabled [hearing impaired] child to get some materials to use at school.”

Betty is a small farmer in Uganda’s Kalungu District. She participated in a deaf awareness session delivered by Signhealth Uganda. Betty was always worried about the challenges that her child faced, so learning about the causes of deafness and how to care for the ear was an eye opener.

Betty was then given the opportunity to receive the training on mushroom growing. Parents’ leader Mary Kabiito, a long-time friend of Signhealth Uganda and Signal, has spearheaded this training. The aim is to enable families to generate income to help to care for and educate their deaf children.

Photo of Mary training parents to grow mushroomsAs well as selling the mushrooms at market, families can use them to supplement their diet. Edible mushrooms are a good source of protein and certain vitamins and minerals, and they can add flavour to staple foods. Varieties including the Oyster mushroom also have medicinal properties.

Moreover, mushroom cultivation is a form of recycling. The Oyster mushrooms are grown on agricultural by-products, such as, coffee husks. The pasteurised husks are mixed with mushroom spores and placed inside a polythene bag. The bag is pierced with holes and suspended in a dark shelter. After the mushroom harvest, these husks can be turned into mulch or fertiliser for other crops.

Photo of Betty selling her mushrooms at marketEquipped with her new skills of cultivating and drying the Oyster mushrooms, Betty committed to starting her own enterprise. She was granted a supply of spores and has set an example in maintaining her mushroom garden, yielding produce and realising sales at market through her hard work.

Betty’s hope is for support to enable her to plant a larger mushroom garden, as she has started mobilising other parents. Her plan is to strengthen her project and train more parents, so that they too are able to earn some money from the project to help their children.

Indeed, interest in this activity is “mushrooming”! After a few months of the pilot project, more parents of children with hearing impairments are still yearning for support to undertake a mushroom growing project on their own.

This pilot project has been made possible by funding from Comic Relief. If you would like to help parents like Betty to develop income generating activities, please do visit Signal’s donation web page. Thank you!

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