A struggling mushroom grower in Oshikoto says he will soon start making biscuits, an addition to his existing wide range of products such as soup, dried mushrooms and seeds.
This is despite the hurdles of inadequate equipment and a proper production structure.
Aged 29, University of Namibia (Unam) graduate Abner Ndakalako Tomas is determined to realise his dream of producing mushrooms on a larger scale to feed the formal markets. He is a holder of a Master's degree in Microbiology, having graduated in 2019.
Tomas owns a company called Ndaka Mushrooms, which he started in 2020. Since then, he has been producing and selling mushrooms to the informal market.
"The trials were done in 2019. As of 2020 and this year, I have been producing on a small scale, and the produce is sold around in the community. This year, I am therefore planning to make flavoured mushroom biscuits to give the community a new taste. The market is good, hence my dream to expand so that I can enter the formal market," he narrated.
Tomas has turned his house into a production centre, while a dilapidated structure within the yard is used as a fruition room. Inside the house is a laboratory room, where he does the testing of seedlings and spawning. Next to it is a cloning room where spawns are packed into plastics containing residues or grass, and this stage is the germination stage.
"Once the cloning is done, the bags are taken to the fruition room, then holes are poked into the plastics to allow the mushrooms to prune. This process takes a 42-day cycle from cultivation to harvesting," he explained.
His main concern is the lack of funds and equipment to expand.
"In the past, I have been approached by some big retailers like Spar to supply them, but I couldn't commit as a result of space and no proper facility. I am, however, in the process of expanding the fruition room with the little savings I have from my previous sales. Once this is done, I hope from August I can try to produce and penetrate the formal market," added an optimistic Tomas.
His efforts have been recognised by Oniipa councillor Vilho Nuunyango, who said he will lobby for financial assistance to boost the youthful entrepreneur's dream, which if realised can lead to food sustainability and job creation.
"This is a really good project. Having observed the stages and the place at which he operates, this calls for support as there is a clear indication that he's determined, and the success probability is high. So, for now, my task is to source funds so that he can upgrade his infrastructure," stated Nuunyango as he visited the site on Wednesday.
Tomas said he also provides five-day training sessions to individuals or groups for a fee of N$3 200 with the aim to empower the community and increase food production.