Hit hard by Covid-19: Female mushroom farmer struggling for survival

Shukuria Begum, 47, mother of three children at remote Laxmanpur village in Nilphamari’s Saidpur upazila, has been cultivating mushroom at her home premises using innovative technique for the last six years.

Things were going smoothly as foreign nationals particularly a section of Chinese people working in nearby Uttara EPZ of Nilphamari and Boropukuria coal mining company in neighboring Dinajpur were main clients as her mushroom was good in quality.

But coronavirus pandemic brought disaster as foreign buyers left the country and due to lack of communication, local retailers also failed to come compelling her to stop production.

She lost her entire capital in the pandemic time in order to manage food for family and medicine for her husband as there was no alternative income.

As the pandemic situation is improving now, Shukuria has resumed little scale production arranging small capital by selling goats but she is struggling to meet the customers’ demand for want of capital.

Her unique cultivation technique is evident at her innovative mushroom laboratory which is made of clay and straw in which temperature and humidity is controlled naturally to facilitate production of good quality mushroom.

The process she adopted is different from official procedure where laboratory is usually set up in a concrete room in which temperature and humidity needs to be controlled by using machineries.

“To attract customers, I have opened mushroom park beside my house on the bank of a pond where I serve healthy mushroom items cheaply,” said Shukuria.

“My clients can enjoy the mushroom recipes in a natural setting where birds chirp all year round,” she added.

Every day she prepares different mushroom based items like rolls, soups, vegetables, paratas, biriyani and cakes as number of customers is increasing day by day, she went on saying.

Horticulturists informed that from a medium capacity laboratory, 30-50 kg mushroom can be collected daily and the market price is Tk 200 per kg whereas the cultivation cost stands at only Tk 50.

“For want of capital, my effort stumbles now as I can’t go for more production to meet the growing demand,” she lamented.

Sukuria inherited the mushroom cultivation from her husband Hafizur Rahman Gama, 52, after he fell seriously ill in 2015. Gama was also a successful mushroom grower.

She and her husband received training on the mushroom cultivation and extension at the sub-center under Horticulture Division of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Dinajpur in 2012.

“The government is providing corona incentive to small entrepreneurs and if I were granted, I would be greatly benefitted,” she said with enthusiasm.

Contacted, Obaidur Rahman Mondol, deputy director of DAE in Nilphamari said, “We recommend mushroom growers to get government incentive so that they can recover from corona pandemic setback.”