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From fungi to fortune: The inspiring journey of Balusbos Farmers Association in mushroom cultivation and beyond

Over three months, after they accepted the mushroom project inputs, the Balusbos Farmers Association (BAFA) from Buruanga, Aklan, generated Php 36,612 solely from the sale of nutritious fungus as of January 2024.

In 2023, BAFA with 44 active members was selected as beneficiary of the Department of Agriculture – Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD) Program to augment their income apart from their existing rice, fish, and livestock livelihoods. 

Under the FY 2023 Mushroom Production Project, the group received 1,500 fruiting bags, 50 polypropylene bags, 3 pcs fruiting bag molders, cooking materials for spawn making, 10 bags rice bran, 2 bags crack corn, 5 bags agricultural lime, 10 bags sawdust, and various farm tools and materials.

Aside from the raw materials they received, they were also provided with training on production technologies which include low-cost propagation techniques and value-adding opportunities. With the mushroom’s growing market potential and the public’s increasing awareness of its benefits, continued production can provide farmers with sustainable income as revenue can be generated from the venture monthly.

Shortly after the delivery of the interventions, the group cultivated the mushroom in their growing area which they built through dagyaw. Serving as the group’s counterpart, the building of their mushroom house incurred them expenses on additional housing materials such as tire wire, nipa roofing, and wood. They have recorded a total expense of Php 12,635 from the housing materials, additional spawn, plastic bags, tarpaulin, hauling costs, and gasoline.

Management of highly sensitive fungus means imposing strict precautionary measures. As such, the group decided to leave the frequent monitoring and harvesting to the hands of the two members who served as the caretakers. Observing this strategic precaution will lessen the risk of contamination coming from external factors. To market their product, the group turned to Facebook page posting to reach more buyers. 

They made use of hardwood sawdust which were initially provided by the program and those that they collected from hardware stores. Not only did they reduce production costs, it also helped in lessening environmental wastes. For their fruiting bags, however, they were provided with high-grade polypropylene plastic to serve as grow bags which they hung inside their growing house.

The group accumulated a total harvest of 108.23 kilograms (kgs) from September 12 to December 31, 2023 which they sold at Php 250-300/kg in the local market, within their barangay and the neighboring barangays. They generated Php 36,612 gross income from September 12, 2023 to January 31, 2024. 

BAFA President Mr. Roland Acosta also serves as caretaker together with two of his members who frequently monitor the area. In an interview, Acosta shared the importance of using the correct substrate and fruiting bags to ensure that the mushrooms will grow abundantly.  

Being first timers in this type of venture, he shared that they still undergo a process of experimentation. Various attempts in fermentation and pasteurization were considered a failure, as the group failed to follow correct bagging and steaming procedures. Some of their spawned bags were also contaminated with microorganisms, eaten dry until hollow. So, they opted to reprocess the contaminated bags and separated the infected from the newly processed ones. 

Following the group’s policy, profits from the project will be distributed on a 60-40 profit-sharing scheme. The 60% share will go directly to the association’s fund and to be divided in five separate fund categories: 1) product development and innovation, 2) operation, maintenance, and development, 3) sales and marketing, 4) office space fund, and 5) emergency. The remaining 40% will be deposited directly into the FA’s bank account intended for educational, association development, and members’ benefit funds. 

Ms. Editha Villacarlos, BAFA member and the group’s topseller, was able to sell abroad through her hard work. She tirelessly sells delicacies around the municipality such as banana que (deep-fried banana skewers) and turon (fried banana wrap) and seeks potential buyers for their mushroom harvest. It was through her earnest effort to sell that she was able to find a buyer in Canada through word of mouth. The group was also able to market their produce to Manila and some locals became their suki with repeat orders.

No matter how painstaking the process is in growing these tiny fungi only to harvest as little as 0.4kg, the group still perseveres and remains hopeful that their production will continue as they plan to expand their mushroom growing area and venture into value-adding, with interest in making chili paste and chicharon. 

This plan was deemed necessary by the group in order to sustain their existing production. They believe that through mushroom cultivation, they can gradually step up from their current state of living as progress is still progress no matter how slow. ###

Writer: Cedie C. Bataga, SAAD Western Visayas Information Officer

Sources:
Balusbos Farmers Association
Apple Joy Cobrador, SAAD Western Visayas Associate Project Officer