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  • Sammy Melnick

Mushroom helps Tanzania farmers fight climate change

Amid dismal crop yields due to recurring drought spells triggered by the impacts of climate change, farmers across Tanzania have switched to growing protein-rich oyster mushrooms to raise incomes, improve livelihoods, and protect forests. Tanzania has one of the highest rates of deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa, with around 372,000 hectares of forests destroyed every year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Tall trees -- which prevent soil erosion, freshen air and water, and slow down impacts of climate change -- are being slashed as demand for wood surges, local analysts say.

While mushrooms have traditionally been eaten in different parts of Tanzania, most farmers picked them from the wild and did not grow them commercially.

The government and various non-profit organizations are now touting commercial production of oyster mushrooms, to increase incomes and curb deforestation.

Local farmers, who depend on rain-fed crop growing and charcoal burning, are learning new skills to grow environmentally friendly mushrooms.

At the Mahenge village in the Morogoro region, Elizabeth Kitama is busy stuffing rice husks mixed with mushroom spawns in small glass bottles.

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