Tribal women spark state’s mushroom revolution

Tribal women spark state’s mushroom revolution

Dr Meera Pandey of ICAR-IIHR shows various mushrooms in Bengaluru on Friday. (Credit: DH Photo/B H Shivakumar)

Tribal women around Bannerghatta and Biligiri Ranga Hills along with some techies in Bengaluru are spearheading the mushroom revolution of Karnataka.

Assisted by the scientists from the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR), these women have been cultivating much of the state’s mushrooms, hailed as the most hygienic vegetable available today.

While women around Bannerghatta, Anekal are supported by Ramakrishna Mission, women at BR Hills are supported by Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra. “With the help of IIHR technology, these women have created a mushroom revolution and selling it through self-help groups. A similar module is also taking shape in Anekal,” Dr MR Dinesh, Director, IIHR said.

The IIHR has been training the tribal women and software professionals from Bengaluru for over a year and providing them with technological inputs.

Dr Meera Pandey, Principal Scientist, Plant Pathology, IIHR, said, “Initially we created awareness about mushrooms and how it can help their livelihood. For six months, we supplied them with ready to fruit (RTF) bags inoculated with mushroom seeds on paddy straws.”

According to Dr Pandey, the BR hills area is the most suited place for the cultivation of oyster mushrooms—world’s second most popular variety.

“About 20 families were supplied with 400 bags and trained in harvesting the oyster mushroom which is rich in iron and potassium content,” she said.

The tribal women were also trained in the preparation of bags and now they have set up a centre.

Even though there has been a dearth of cultivators, the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research’s support to these tribal women and homemakers in and around Bengaluru has resulted in a steady supply of quality mushrooms across the state.

The IIHR has also trained about 2,000 horticultural officials up to the taluka level for promoting mushroom cultivation. The mushroom cultivation, according to the scientists, has also addressed the problem of anaemia
among the tribal women and kids, as many of them consume mushroom on a daily basis.

“The oyster mushroom is the most hygienic vegetable in the market today and completely organic in nature,” Dr Pandey explained.

“It is cultivated on a paddy straw that is sterilised at 121-degree centigrade and 18-pound steam pressure. The water used to cultivate these mushroom is also potable in nature. With their pH value between 6.5 and 7, they make for ideal food with any combination of vegetables. Mushroom along with capsicum, carrot, peas and avocado powder provides all the required vitamins—A,B,C&D.” 

Even in urban areas, women and techies have been cultivating the vegetable in their balcony space and apartment passages by setting up mist shades to create humid conditions.