Mushroom Cultivation Program

In Cambodia, poverty is overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas, and the gap appears to be growing. Nearly eighty percent of the population in Cambodia lives in rural areas, nearly 25 percent of which live on less than $0.84 a day. In addition, more than 70 percent of Cambodians rely entirely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods, and yet most do not make enough money to provide their families with ample food or to send their children to school.

Our Response

One of the newest programs in Cambodia is our mushroom cultivation program. Mushrooms are grown on agricultural waste from one annual planting of rice followed by an annual planting of mung beans. The mung beans are both a cash crop and soil enhancer. The dried mung bean stalks and empty pods are added to the rice straw to create the mushroom growing medium. After three growing cycles of mushrooms, the medium is decomposed and returned to the rice field as compost. Farmers average about 2.5 acres of rice paddy, which is enough to provide sufficient waste for one Mushroom House year around. Several crops of mushrooms can be grown in a single year, and the mushrooms are sold at the local markets.

Since launching in 2016, these Mushroom Grow Houses have been proven commercially successful: They are accessible, affordable and provide a year-round cash flow to the farmers that utilize them. In support of the Mushroom Grow Houses, WHI drills deep boreholes, which provide access to water for surrounding households. WHI also connects farmers to markets, which is the last step in ensuring that increased production leads to increased income.

Throughout 2016, WHI worked with farmers in Cambodia to grow mushrooms for sale in local markets and saw the rapid expansion of 23 Mushroom Houses. This growth in mushroom cultivation is partly due to market linkages being developed by WHI. Fair and consistent demand and pricing are encouraging smallholder investment in the mushroom houses. Twenty-five farmers are now invested in Mushroom Houses, which on average show a return on investment in three and a half months.

The mushroom project is also attracting new partnerships, such as the Preak Leap National School of Agriculture, who are interested in identifying student research projects around alternatives to rice straw as a growing medium for mushrooms. Bambusa, the company working on GRO Greenhouses, is also finishing a new design of mushroom house “kits” that will be assembled upon delivery, taking building time from two weeks to just a few days.

To learn more about our Mushroom Grow House project, see our 2016 Agriculture Annual Report  and consider making a donation to our Mushroom Cultivation Project.