Agartala, November 6: There was a time when mushrooms were shunned in the local markets of Tripura. Blame it on the look and feel, it’s often been compared to poisonous mushrooms. On the contrary, today, mushrooms of different kinds have not only made their way into people’s daily plate, but this product of progressive agriculture is also recognized as a tool to empower women in villages.
Tripura Bio-technology Council, which has been actively working to converge innovative findings with everyday life to create sustainable models for rural development, recently launched its new project called “Mushroom Hamlet”.
As its name suggests, the women beneficiaries of these villages had been trained in mushroom cultivation with the double objective. The main reason behind this project was to ensure that people in the villages eat healthy and nutritious food. Today, mushrooms are proven to be one of the nutrient-dense foods available in the market.
The second but crucial point was to train the women, so that they would be able to do something on their own. “Anything extra could be easily sold in the market and if a person wants to grow the product on a commercial scale, they should know the pros and cons. With this in mind, we started the project and so far , eight villages were adopted under the special program.In each of the villages, 20 beneficiary women were selected by the local elected bodies and they received mushroom spawn, a cash grant of Rs. purchase of bullets and other forms of technical assistance from the department,” an official said.
One such mushroom hamlet is Brajalal settlement area which falls under Surjyamani Nagar Gram Panchayat of West Tripura district. Located in the suburbs of the city of Agartala, the village still seems far from the dominant urbanization. The men depend mainly on manual labor and agriculture for bread and butter, except for a few interval stores and the women manage the household chores. The mushrooms that grew in this village somehow gave the housewives confidence that they too had something to contribute to the family.
Chief Pachayat, also a woman – Bhiva Sarkar Das – and a beneficiary of the program believes that every village in the state should be included in the project. “The women under my Panchayat are very happy after receiving training on mushrooms. They now grow mushrooms without any problem and use it to feed their children. If the production is surplus, it is sold in the market because the mushrooms are very popular these days. The stigma is long gone,” Das said.
Gouri Rani Majumder, another beneficiary from the village, said, “The Tripura Bio-technology Council has been distributing mushrooms to us for a year. They also help us financially. The only thing we need to do is invest our time and hard work to ensure that the spawns grow into full-fledged mushrooms”. Asked about the product, she replied, “We use it for home consumption. Sometimes, if someone comes to ask for mushrooms, we also sell”.
Similar was the response from others like Sima Rani Das and Laxmi Sarkar who had been growing mushrooms for a year. The Biotechnology Council also gave 20 filters to the villagers.