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Oyster mushrooms: a Tanzanian pearl

Mushrooms are now Magdalena's biggest source of income. Mushrooms are now Magdalena's biggest source of income.

It might not be pretty, but in Tanzania’s Nou Forest the oyster mushroom sure is turning heads. Who would have known that these small white clusters could transform the lives of women across the community?

Magdalena is one of them.Sixty years old, she has lived int he Nou Forest since she was born. She and her family used to live off the income made through traditional crop farming and livestock. But as the forest was cut back to make way for new grazing land, Magdalena's homeland was slowly being destroyed.

To help stop the deforestation, Magdalena became one of 700 farmers trained by Farm Africa. The crop of choice? Oyster mushrooms. 

Something of a hidden pearl, oyster mushrooms need only a small amount of space to grow. This means that they can be farmed at home and are the perfect crop for women with families. They also have a short production cycle and grow in all seasons - making mushroom farming an income to be relied on all year round.

For Magdalena, oyster mushrooms offer a solution that is not only conserving the forest, but that also gives her the chance to invest in her family's future.

"As a woman, mushroom farming has been important to me, because today I am able to contribute to the houseshold income, whereas previously this was my husband's responsibility."

Oyster mushrooms earn Magdalena's family an extra 480,000 Tanzanian shillings (around £167) every year. tehir single biggest source of income, the money is being put to good use.

"With the extra money we have been able to send all our children to school, improve our diets and afford medical costs. We have also been able to improve our home and invest in our business."

Just £12 could help more farmers find ways to earn a reliable, year-round income without damaging the forest in which they live.