Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. A student must strive for excellence in order to determine their bright future and career. With the rise in the economy, competition has become the other of the day, and in order to strive for a good job in these fast changing world, education is the key. Often at times, the road to success starts with a dream, which grows to motivation and the will power to achieve and make this dream become a reality. Zanfack Woubeng Aurelie, a student of the Pan African Institute for Development-West Africa Buea (PAID-WA), shares her success story on the growing and cultivation of “Agaricus bisporus” locally called “Mushrooms”.
Who are you?
I am Zanfack Woubeng Aurelie, I am a second year Bachelor of Science (BSc) student of Agriculture and Environment at PAID-WA, Buea. I currently grow mushrooms on Campus. I have a French background as I come from Yaoundé.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
I came to PAID-WA for the purpose of doing Agriculture. Having a mastery of Agriculture means a student cannot solely rely on theory but practical’s too. Looking at this aspect. I wanted to know more about my beautiful field “Agriculture” so I decided to volunteer. I started my voluntary service on Campus. That is to stay while my friends go back home for holidays, I stay back on campus and volunteer. I was later on advised by my lecturer to volunteer in an Organization called Center for Development and Environmental Protection (CEDFP) where they specialize in Agroforestry. While volunteering with CEDFP I participated in the nursing of different types of fruit trees and taking care of cows. Seeing how delicate I took care of the cows, the manager of CEDFP advised me to do Mushroom cultivation. With my theoretical experience from school, I was able to learn and adapt quickly while being trained on mushroom cultivation.
Through CEDFP, I was able to have Mushroom seedlings with the partnership of the Ministry of Agriculture. I am currently a registered farmer of the South West Region specifically on Mushroom cultivation. This helped me in the facilitation of the seedlings I had.
Can you give me a brief overview of the process of Mushroom cultivation?
Mushroom cultivation is very easy. I say that because it doesn’t take a lot of time for it to develop. You need 3days. The 1st day you learn how to cultivate mushrooms, the 2nd day you buy all the materials and mix all the substances. After mixing all the substance, you cook and keep. The 3rd day when you remove the mixture from the pot, mix again with seeds and after 21 days you can come and check the progress of the mushroom. So with Mushroom cultivation, the labor ends only during this 3days, after this process, the Mushroom cultivator only monitors the mushroom from time to time. The harvesting process begins after 2 months of cultivation.
What are you most excited or passionate about?
I am passionate about Mushroom cultivation. I fell in love with mushroom cultivation because Agriculture is my desire and also mushroom cultivation is very easy and very profitable. For instance, 300grams of mushroom can give 3000 FRS. That is to say, 100grams of mushroom cost 1000 FRS. The demand is high and the supply is little. I believe a lot of people don’t know how to cultivate mushrooms.
I must say I love what I am doing, I feel I inspire other students on campus, I Have had a lot of students come to me for me to teach them mushroom cultivation. I can’t take all of the credit alone, I work closely with Stephnie a first-year student in PAID-WA.
How do you cope with Mushroom cultivation vis-à-vis your studies in PAID-WA?
Actually, it’s not easy at all. Since I came to PAID-WA, I have never had holidays, I decided to stay back in school and do the Mushroom cultivation. Well, I must say, the only advantage I have is living on campus because I wake up very early in the morning to monitor and check the progress of my mushrooms and I do same in the evening before I go back home. Honestly, it’s not easy because every mushroom cultivator needs a lot of determination, to carry out this project. In the beginning of this project, I was not alone. There were a lot of people but they dropped out because they lacked commitment.
Having this project and coping with my studies is a big Challenge because I always have to give a progress report to school on how the seedlings have developed that means I have to constantly monitor my mushrooms. Now being a student with my French background, I am forced to work double in order to make it. But by God’s grace, I came out this year, top of my class, irrespective of all these challenges.
What are some of the challenges you faced in this project?
For the Mushroom cultivation to be complete, I will need Combs for corn, wood, sawdust. Now the combs for corn was the most difficult part of this project because I needed dry combs of corn, and given the fact that this is the rainy season, most of the people I encountered had wet combs of corn. I was therefore forced to go to the interior villages, to get dry combs of corn from old women who store them in their kitchen.
Another challenge I faced was grinding the combs of corn. Since it’s very difficult to find a machine that will grind this combs of corn to take a powder form, I was forced to cut the combs of corn in bits before grinding.
There are many substrates a mushroom cultivator can use to produce mushrooms, it does not only have to be combs of corn. What I strive to do here on campus is to use different substrates for mushroom cultivation and find out which one is best for this cultivation, so that I can use the knowledge I have acquired to sensitize farmers all over the Buea Municipality.
What inspired you to do what you are doing right now?
I got inspired by my father. My father being an Engineer by profession constantly told me while growing up that when he retires he was going to get full time into Agriculture. At that time, I never fully understood why an engineer would want to end up in the field of Agriculture. According to my Dad, Agriculture is a field which is very rich and the demand is very high. At that time, my dream was to become an Engineer as my father. So I attempted my 1st degree in physics in Yaoundé, but I did not complete it because I felt physics was not my passion. I tried several attempts to no avail and finally, I got to know about PAID-WA Buea, and with the guiding principle of my father, I took on Agriculture and Environment, and I have never regretted my decision ever since. My father is my biggest inspiration. I always get excited when I see how well my mushroom progress. As it changes every day, it motivates me.
What advice do you have for your fellow students and the Buea community at large?
Looking at my experience, I believe in one thing, dreams can be achieved by action. What I have discovered about life is that you have to first dream and then attempt to achieve that dream. The agriculture sector has a lot of advantages. It can make youths independent from the income gotten from cultivation. I advise youths to focus on the mushroom sector as there is a lot of demand and less supply. That is the reason why PAID-WA has decided to do vocational training so that even if you come from any field it could be human resource, accounting, just to name a few, you should know part of agriculture. Thus, when you graduate and you don’t yet have a job, the individual can start cultivating anything of his choice. I would advise PAID-WA students to take vocational training very serious and always volunteer at every given opportunity. Most importantly, every student should love what they do because when you love what you do, you work with so much passion.
Vanessa Mokoko Communications Intern