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Skill development in ten years: From 250 to 64,000 bags of mushrooms

02.05.2018  12:17
Going into mushroom cultivation, the Ghanaian-owned QZ Farms increased production dramatically after receiving training from Danida-funded Skills Development Fund (SDF). Next step is using the knowledge to train other farmers to get a share in the market.

Each compost bag will produce 400-500 grams of mushrooms selling at 12 cedi. “The market potential is huge for mushrooms,” explains Wilhelm Quist holding one of the bags.

“Everyone loves mushrooms,” says Wilhelm Quist, CEO of QZ Farms, walking through the piles of compost used for cultivating mushrooms. With hard-worked hands, he points to the areas, where the very technical steps of mushroom cultivation takes place. From growing spawns, to bagging compost, to sterilization, over to planting and finally harvesting.

The crop is then processed into either ready-to-eat sauces, snacks or freshly packed mushrooms – a process Quist is being trained to master through funding by the Skills Development Fund (SDF); a programme financed by Danida.

“QZ Farms is a brilliant example of how SDF works. Wilhelm has received training enabling him to compete in a market, where many of the products in our stores are otherwise imported. However, Wilhelm has started producing and processing locally – thereby entering and enhancing a market with a huge potential. And along the way he has created jobs locally,” say Emmanuel Kodwo Sackey, senior programme advisor at the Embassy of Denmark and in charge of the funding for SDF.

Since its beginning in 2011, SDF has worked to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the skilled workforce in Ghana. This is especially aimed at raising the income-earning potential of women and low-income groups by providing industry-focused and competency-based training programmes. So far, the results of the SDF are that 108,400 employees have had vocational training, 43,400 enterprises have benefitted from training and an estimated 13,000 jobs have been created.

Wilhelm Quist started farming by his own hands in 2008. Now, ten years later, he has 21 employees from the local community and is planning to expand even further.

“The SDF is focused on industries that enhances Ghana’s import competition. We are interested in getting a more sustainable model for Ghana’s industries and agriculture, where we are not just producing, but also processing, so more jobs are created. And of course that requires some own initiative,” explains Emmanuel Kodwo Sackey.

Rings in the water
Wilhelm Quist started by his own initiative to get training in cultivating mushrooms, since he saw a evident market opportunity for the bags of mushrooms he brought to the market.
“We would get to the market at 6:00am - and by 10:00am we had sold all the mushrooms. So, we starting increasing the customer base, and now we are selling mushrooms to hotels and restaurants too,” says Wilhelm Quist.

QZ Farms has increased quarterly production from 250 compost bags to 64.000 in ten years due to training in cultivation and processing.

Ten years after he began cultivating mushrooms he has increased his quarterly output from 250 compost bags to 64,000, where each bag contains 400-500 grams of mushrooms on average.

With the big market potential, Wilhelm saw the need for further educating himself in processing the mushrooms for a longer shelf life in stores and for a bigger market. He applied for training funded by SDF and executed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Food Research Institute (CSIR-FRI). While training Wilhelm, the CSIR-FRI are also improving their methods for training other farmers by getting inputs directly from the SDF.

“It is like rings in the water. When disbursing funds for projects in skills development, it is not only people like Wilhelm, who benefit; it is also the organisation doing the training and people in the local communities. We are focused on ensuring their capacity to keep on training more farmers, so more people have a chance to take part in the market,” says Emmanuel Kodwo Sackey.

Wilhelm’s next step is to start spreading the knowledge of mushroom cultivation he has attained to other farmers in the Volta Region and Greater Accra.

 “I have currently trained a few farmers for free, but I want to train farmers continuously, so they can sell their mushrooms to me and get a steady income. I will then process it and sell the processed food,” says Wilhelm Quist enthusiastically.