OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Urban Mushroom Farms Network for turning Urban wastes into edible Oyster Mushrooms

What if we create a self-sustaining community by producing nutritious food at profit, while using materials that would be considered waste?

Photo of marco mihambo

Written by

Food insecurity, poverty, malnutrition, pollution caused by waste and lack of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are all eminent challenges faced by the world. The situation is worse in areas of sub Saharan Africa such as East African. Moreover, in Tanzania Poverty and food insecurity are the main drivers of chronic under-nutrition. And this Chronic under nutrition is the greatest contributor to under-5 mortality and is estimated to cost the country 2.65 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to lost revenues from poor cognitive and physical development in early life. It is caused primarily by inadequate access to a diverse and quality diet and poor feeding practices at home. Also, the economically underprivileged urban communities in Tanzania live without enough to feed or to satisfy their physiological needs especially the micro-nutrient. These communities are resource deprived as they struggle to meet their immediate necessities. Such scenario is also contributed by the level of unemployment in Tanzania whereby for the youth is estimated to be over 60 percent. With regard to this background we have identified the opportunities in mushrooms cultivation as the best means to tackle the above mentioned problems. And this is driven by their bio-conversion ability of turning organic wastes to be a mushrooms substrate and at the same time makes money in selling of those mushrooms.

Therefore, we are proposing to establish a Network for Urban Mushrooms farms that will use urban agricultural wastes, residues or industrial by products for production of spawn (mushroom), production of fresh and dried mushroom, mushroom kits preparation as well as training of people on mushroom production aspects and processing mushroom into different products.

 The proposed agricultural wastes are paddy straws, rice bran, and sisal waste from farmers and hardwood sawdust from urban carpentry workshop as well as dried chicken manure for mushrooms substrate preparation.  Then the harvested mushrooms will be processed into chips using industrial dehydrators. The mushroom chips will be packaged for sale to households and other market in Tanzania at affordable prices. Our aim is to ensure every individual in Tanzania have access to quality protein at cheaper prices, compared to the high cost of animal protein.  On other side, we will also produce tonnes of fertile compost that will be used to improve local soils and provide employment for local unemployed people who carry out a training program alongside working on the project. Therefore, at the end the Urban Mushroom Farm Network will deliver a steady supply of local, healthy and nutritious food to the community, fertile compost to the soil, and training for the unemployed - all from an urban waste stream!

We are expecting to organize a lot of workshops as our spreading strategies for training the community especially unemployed youth on modern mushroom production and processing. Through the replication by the youths, more food will be produced, more households will be fed and more jobs will be created.

Who will benefit?

  • Farmers will earn additional income for selling agricultural waste materials that would otherwise be discarded and cause environmental pollution. 
  • Businesses will save money for their waste disposal costs e.g. carpentry, milling machine etc This is because in Urban area It has been expensive to send food waste to landfill, and there are often considerable fees to have food waste disposed of through more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • The public will benefit from reduced food waste as they cause a huge environmental problem. Rotting food produces methane which contributes to climate change which affects us all.
  • Jobs creation and Provision of additional revenue source. The project will provide  direct employment for individuals who will work with our network of Urban mushrooms farm and also will acts as a driving force in increasing community’s  revenue for the unemployed individuals and others  who will be trained and start their own mushroom cultivation venture.
  • Consumers will enjoy affordable mushrooms which is sustainable, nutritious and delicious!

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have already carried out a rough simple test for growing mushrooms and were successfully. But currently we really eager to experiment the idea at large scale and consider advice from scientific and legal experts as far as our targeted agricultural wastes and the urban location is concerned by complying with the urban regulations for operating Urban farming as well as developing a win-win kind of partnership with potential partners who are necessarily for our business success.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

In realizing the urban Mushrooms farms network ; We first needs experts who will guide us in identifying the right ratio for the wastes that would be used in preparing mushrooms substrate. Also, we need guidance on how to identify potential partners for our business success as well as the right form of partnership that the business is supposed to pursue for being successful. Lastly, we need support and suggestions on recent technology necessarily for operating Mushrooms Production.

Tell us about your work experience:

I have been working with my sister to run our Day Care and Training center . Currently, I am working with the Ministry responsible for Science and Technology and Innovation.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mismak Zena Gessesse

Hi Marco,

Firstly, I love mushrooms and I hope that one day I will be able to grow it at home. Your post was certainly encouraging. You have a great idea and I hope you get to develop and execute it!

I like how you worked your project around a set of concrete beneficiaries- that is great! I would do some type of exercise, perhaps a series of workshops, for identifying partners and establishing solid partnerships. A good place to start is to invite people from your target beneficiaries– the farmers/the other sources for waste, disadvantaged youth, potential consumers including retailers – to get a buy-in from them and hopefully a picture of everyone's roles and responsibilities in the value chain. This process can also help in identifying other potential partners that may not be obvious right now.

Also, I am aware that all vegetables (and fungi:) have some protein content but I wonder if you can promote mushrooms as predominately protein foods. Not an expert at this but just suggesting that it might be a good idea to look more closely into the nutritional content of mushrooms.

Best of luck implementing the project! 

View all comments