Wild East African Mushrooms
Wild Chanterelle mushrooms safeguarding East Africa's hard wood forests
Once representing some 11% of Kenya's total land area, forest cover has drastically reduced to only 3% in the last three decades. Unsustainable hard wood demand for the building, furniture and wood carving industries has decimated forests such as Mount Elgon, Shimba hills and the Arabuko Sokoke forests. With little other alternative for augmenting subsistence farming livelihoods - people living near to forest boundaries continue to fell slow growing hard wood trees for meager returns from timber traders and middlemen.
Rather than obtaining one-off and negligible returns from the sale of hard wood timber, many of these trees provide the potential for realizing sustained and repeated returns from Non Wood Forest Products (NWFPs). One such highly lucrative NWFP is the wild Chanterelle (sp. Catherellus) mushroom. These mushrooms develop a symbiotic relationship with host slow growing hard wood species such as Brachystegia Spiciformis and Afzelia Quanzensis. The host tree and the mushroom support each others growth - with neither surviving without the other.
As proven in Zambia's Luangwa valley communities have found that they can attain far greater sustained livelihoods from mushroom sales than they ever could from the felling and sale of hard wood timber from host tree species. As mushroom production, and peoples livelihoods, are linked to the health of the host trees, communities are now the forests number one protector.
Sustainable quantities of Chanterelle are available for harvest alongside these species growing within the Kenyan Coastal and Tanzanian miombo regions. As the harvestable product is the fruiting body - the mushroom, and many millions of spore seeds are disbursed from a single mushroom, sustainable harvesting is possible.
With over 40 species of Catharellus world wide, there are 10 species found in Europe and 20 in Africa. Whilst production is declining in Europe, global demand is increasing. Similarly to this international demand, local East African gourmet restaurants and hotels represent a significant and as yet untapped market, that to date has not been accessed due to lack of awareness amongst community producers and retail outlets themselves. Wild Living Resources has partnered with four Community Based Organizations (CBO's) located in remnant forest farm areas surrounding Arabuko Sokoke forest. An East African wild Chanterelle mushroom model has been established on the Wild Living Resources Conservancy. This model showcases the Chanterelle production potential of mature host tree species, and provides examples of how Chanterelle can be ranched and intensively farmed.
Wild Living Resources provides training for outgrowers from its partner CBOs on sustainable wild harvesting, quality control, Chanterelle mushroom ranching and farming. As the pivotal incentive for valuing host tree species, outgrower livelihoods are assured through Wild Living's assistance in the marketing of fresh, dried and preserved Chanterelle in the local as well as international European markets.