Quarterly Newsletter of Mushrooms with a Mission
I s s u e # 1 M a r c h 2 0 1 2
For UXO victim families, growing lingzhi mushrooms brings hope for better incomes Phuong said. He is well aware that lingzhi mushrooms bring a premium price in the Vietnamese market.
Inside this issue: For UXO victim fami- 1 lies, growing lingzhi mushrooms brings hope for better incomes Mushrooms give UXO survivors opportunity, hope, and new confidence in the future
Something new in the mountains of Quang Tri: Shiitake mushrooms, a unique enterprise for ethnic minorities
Lingzhi mushrooms, best known for medicinal qualities and health benefits, are expected to generate strong sales and higher profits for victim families in Quang Tri Province. As part of Mushrooms-with-aMission’s (MWM) 2012 work plan, in January and February 50 victim families completed training on how to grow lingzhi mushrooms. Since 2009, these families from Trieu Phong and Cam Lo Districts have been growing and selling wood ear mushrooms, mainly, and sales of these dried mushrooms have earned extra income for their families. Now the families are learning to grow lingzhi mushrooms — one of Vietnam’s most lucrative and profitable crops. Lingzhi mushrooms are used for medicinal purposes in Vietnam, in teas, and for a number of traditional health applications. The recent training was hosted at RENEW’s Mushroom
Center, established in 2010 as a processing facility for the MWM program. Participating families in the MWM program are selected because they are women-headed households, one or more family members is disabled from ERW accidents or other causes, or they are living below the poverty line. The training course provided them with basic knowledge and practical techniques in cultivation of lingzhi, in addition to wood ear, oyster and other mushrooms. Hoang Kim Phuong, a disabled father of two, is one of the participants who joined the training. “With support from this program,” Phuong said, “I believe we can grow lingzhi mushrooms successfully. We will be able to expand our mushroom production,”
Phuong was 20 years old in 1986 when he hit an American landmine while collecting concrete scrap from a former U.S military base in Cam Tuyen Commune. Phuong lost his left hand in the accident, and has since been permanently disabled. As the father of two children, Phuong has faced many difficulties in trying to feed his family and keep his children in school. Now things have changed for the better for Phuong and other UXO victims. The support they are receiving from RENEW to grow mushrooms will generate additional income to improve their livelihoods. In addition to the training for each family, RENEW/HDI is supporting them with a standardized mushroom shelter for safely hanging the bags of mushrooms in controlled conditions during the growing season. This will help them avoid losses during the flood season, as most of the growers reside in floodprone areas of Quang Tri Province.
Mushrooms give UXO survivors opportunity, hope, and new confidence in the future Successfully growing mushrooms requires tender loving care and some professional attention, and Ms. Tam says she is more than qualified to handle the job.
When lunch was over, Ms. Tam turned to her nine-year-old daughter, Nhi, and gave her a new school bag she had just bought that morning. Her daughter’s smiling face gave Tam a feeling of happiness that Nhi, the youngest of her four children, now had a brand new school bag — after three years of carrying an old, worn school bag to school. Her family’s poverty, for many years, had prevented Tam from affording such a simple but important school item for her children. Joining the MWM program has changed Tam’s family situation. With income from mushroom sales, Tam was not only able to buy a new school bag for her daughter, but now she’s thinking about purchasing a hearing-aid for her deaf son after she sells her next crop of mushrooms. Fifteen years ago her infant son Cuong, who was then only three days old, suffered a tragic accident. Unknown to anyone, an item of UXO was mixed into the charcoal which was being burned to heat the home and warm the newborn baby. It suddenly exploded. Luckily the explosion killed no one — but
then the family realized that little Cuong had been left permanently deaf. The family were deeply grieved, seeing that their little son, their hope and joy, would have to live with this disability forever. Then Tam herself became disabled because of a degenerative spine disease, unable to do heavy farm work any longer, and leaving the entire burden of taking care of the family on Tam’s husband. It seemed that misery and poverty would haunt Tam’s family. Mushrooms with a Mission has changed that. In the most recent mushroom season, 40 families in Cam Lo District, including Tam’s family, were provided with 1,500 readyto-fruit blocks of wood ear mushrooms. Tam and her family also received technical guidance from the program on how to care for the mushroom blocks. Three months later, Tam harvested 84 kilograms of wood ear mushroom which she sold to RENEW — based on the agreement between RENEW and farmers. She earned 1,300,000 VND (equivalent to about $65 USD) from her mushroom sales after deducting the investment cost, which the MwM program
had advanced to her in the terms of agreement. Holding the money in her hands, tears flowed down Tam’s face. She was overwhelmed with happiness. No longer unemployed, Tam now keeps busy all day watering, checking the humidity of the wood ear mushrooms, tending to her garden. She feels a new sense of self-confidence, and new “I believe that independence, since she is contributing to the livelihood of we have found her family by earning income from mushrooms. the way now to “Although this was the first crop, and the income I earned for my family was not so high,” Tam Said, “I believe that we have found the way now to rid ourselves of our poverty — by growing mushrooms.” Tam added, “This kind of work is really suitable for women like me, because extensive labor is not necessary for growing mushrooms. But mushrooms need tender care and attention. And I have both,” she smiled.
rid ourselves of our poverty — by growing mushrooms.”
Cuong’s UXO accident and disability have not stopped him from helping his mom, looking after mushrooms and generating extra income for the family.
NAMUS is the official trademark of the brand of mushrooms grown by UXO survivors in Quang Tri Province, part of Mushrooms-with-a-Mission (MWM), a program jointly implemented by Project RENEW and New York-based Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI). RENEW has worked for 10 years to clean up bombs and mines in Quang Tri Province, reducing accidents and injuries and improving the lives of victim families. HDI is a non-profit humanitarian organization which has conducted post-war poverty-reduction and mine action programs in Angola, Armenia, Eritrea, Lebanon, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Laos, and now Vietnam. MWM supports victim families and poor communities in ERW-affected areas in Quang Tri Province by creating jobs for people with physical disabilities, helping them achieve stable incomes and contributing to socio-economic improvements in the communities where they live.
Our mailing address: 103 Nguyen Binh Khiem Dong Ha City Quang Tri Province Vietnam
MWM ensures that growers will be able to earn a good income from their mushroom products. Profits from the program will go back to support Project RENEW’s humanitarian activities including ERW cleanup and removal programs, and to expand opportunities for more victim families to join the program. The NAMUS name “NAMUS — what does that mean?” someone asked one day as she was examining a package of dried mushrooms with the bright orange and brown label. Reasonable question. And the answer is simple: the name combines Viet NAM with US (since the partnership is between Vietnam and an American-based NGO), and incorporates the Vietnamese name for mushroom — NẤM. So . . . NAMUS. Easy to say, in Vietnamese, English, any language.
Something new in the mountains of Quang Tri: Shiitake mushrooms, a unique enterprise for ethnic minorities Rural poor families in the Huc Commune of Huong Hoa District are being selected to join in a new MWM program: a pilot project that will produce specialty shiitake mushrooms, a variety found in Vietnam which is different from other shiitakes. Findings from a recent survey by RENEW and the district’s Agricultural and Rural Development Bureau confirm that shiitake, a high value mushroom which requires special weather conditions, can be grown in this mountainous communes of Huong Hoa District. Huc Commune, located in the west of Huong Hoa District, is adjacent to the
Laos border and not far from the historic battle site of the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh. The average temperature is 380C in summer and 70C in winter, which is suitable for shiitake growing. The residents are mostly ethnic minorities who are still living in especially difficult and disadvantaged conditions. These unique Vietnamese shiitakes are expected to open new opportunities for income gains for ethnic minority families and economic improvements for this mountainous and isolated area of Huong Hoa.
With support from MWM, women will be empowered to engage in economic development activities.