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The Center for Agroforestry

UMCA News Release

'Mushrooms in Ghana Project' Founders to Speak in Columbia

April 22, 2009

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A group helping people in Ghana to grow their own renewable source of protein - mushrooms - will speak about their project at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, in Chambers Auditorium, Brady Commons, at the University of Missouri.

The Mushrooms in Ghana Project involves shiitake mushroom growers from Oklahoma and oyster mushroom producers from Ghana, West Africa.

In 2005, Ghana's more than 5,000 mushroom growers experienced a shortfall of seed material - the spawn from the only registered source in Ghana had become contaminated. The farmers, most of them women supporting their families, couldn't produce enough mushrooms to sustain their farms. The contamination was resolved in 2008, but by then an unknown number of growers (estimates are as high a thousand), quit or were forced out of production.

Kwashiorkor, a protein deficiency disease, is a leading cause of death in children under 5 in Ghana. Mushrooms are high in protein and can offer the Ghanaian people a low-cost alternative protein source, according to Bernard Bempah, founder and director of BemCom, one of the leaders in training oyster-mushroom farmers from Ghana, Nigeria and other countries in West Africa.

The loss made it clear farmers needed to diversify their crops. Bempah had trained many of Ghana's mushroom farmers and determined that a second crop, shiitakes grown on logs, could provide a buffer against single-crop failure and increase the farmers' production and profits. BemCom trains farmers in alternative/non-traditional agricultural production: rabbits and other small animals, bees and honey, and snails in addition to their work with mushrooms.

In 2007, Doug and Dr. Sandra Williams, Perkins, Okla., shiitake mushroom growers and producers of grow-your-own shiitake mushroom log kits, volunteered as mushroom consultants at BemCom's Youth Enterprises/Association, a non-profit research, resource and training center.

The Williams formed the Mushrooms in Ghana Project to bring Bempah and BemCom Production Manager Godwin Baokye to the U.S. to learn shiitake farming. The project is also working to provide supplies so that BemCom can produce its own spawn, reducing production costs and offering another source of spawn for Ghanaian bag producers and farmers.

The Mushrooms in Ghana group is now touring mushroom operations in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. In mid-Missouri, the group will visit with Dr. Johann Bruhn and Dr. Jeanne Mihail, who are studying mushroom biology and cultivation as an agroforestry practice, sponsored by the MU Center for Agroforestry. Dr. Bruhn, research associate professor, Division of Plant Sciences, is coordinating this visit by the Mushrooms in Ghana Project.

For more information about the project, go to

For more information about the presentation, or for opportunities to meet with the group, contact Bruhn at

To access Chambers Auditorium for the presentation, enter the north doors of Brady Commons and take stairs or elevator to the second floor; the entrance is on the left.

--Michelle Hall
Senior Information Specialist
Center for Agroforestry
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9866

Dr. Johann Bruhn,

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