Africa Development Promise has been working with the Epaphroditus Women’s Cooperative – a 32-member mushroom growing group in Uganda – since 2015. The women were members of a local church and were so inspired by a biblical figure named Epaphroditus that they decided to ban together to improve their social and economic condition by pooling their savings to start a collective mushroom business. Mushroom cultivation is becoming increasingly popular among rural women because of the nutritional value; the limited space required to grow them; the quick rate of maturity; and provide a steady source of income.
With support from Africa Development Promise, Epaphroditus grown from a small operation into a promising cooperative business. They now own land, have a large mushroom grow house fitted with solar powered water mister and a solar dryer. When Africa Development Promise started working with the cooperative their biggest expense was the purchase of pre-made mushroom spawn bags (a common method for mushroom cultivation) at approximately $1 each. To cut down on this expense, ADP sponsored technical training and with the new skills, Epaphroditus reduced its costs by making its own bags, and increased its profits by selling them, in addition to selling mushrooms.
With three years of successful operations, Epaphroditus is ready to take the next steps: (1) scale the mushroom cultivation to a large-volume commercial production operation; (2) identify regional markets for fresh and dried mushrooms; (3) launch an “outgrower scheme” (also known as contract farming); (4) equip contract farmers with the tools they need to succeed; (5) and, identify other value-addition opportunities. Thanks to a grant from Dining for Women, most these goals will come to fruition in 2020.