Otjiwarongo — New life is being breathed into a mushroom farm for people living with disabilities, which stopped operating because of infighting not long after it was launched in 2010.
The project, called the Namibia Disability Mushroom Farm, was sponsored by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), a component of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and opened by then Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah on 10 March 2010.
During the same year, the farm managed to grow more than 4 000 mushrooms, which were popular among residents living in the vicinity of the Clay House residential area, where the project is situated at Otjiwarongo.
Project founder Petha Haoseb told Nampa that the project went under after its first and only harvest that year.
Haoseb said the project gave people with disabilities hope as they eagerly anticipated its development.
Fifteen community members with disabilities were responsible for caring for the mushrooms.
"We almost prospered, but we failed due to the terrible infighting which started between the people who managed the project," he said.
Haoseb explained how after the harvest in 2010, some members who managed the project saw the farm's potential for growth, and allegedly started intimidating the rest of the project members.
"The members then started to group themselves into their tribes," he recalled, adding that one group apparently locked the gate of the mushroom farm, preventing others from entering the premises.
After this incident, previously dedicated members started withdrawing from the project.
Haoseb, along with fellow founding committee member Theophilus Nawaseb, has now decided to revive the project.
A meeting involving a number of other members was held earlier this year, where it was decided that the group would resume growing mushrooms in the first week of March.
Haoseb said only a select group of individuals would initially work on re-establishing the project.
"In addition, we also agreed to turn the project into a profit-making entity, and only when we see it functioning on its own will we involve other members with disabilities," he added.
The farm has two mushroom sheds built with clay, where mushrooms are grown on shelves in the shade.
The 30 shelves inside the clay houses can carry a total of 30 000 mushrooms at once.
Mushrooms grow for 30 days before they are harvested. The maximum lifespan of a mushroom plant is two years.
The farm has also started cultivating cabbages on two empty plots behind the mushroom sheds, and is equipped with thermometers, water pipelines, electricity and storage facilities, all bought by the Global Environment Facility.