Babita, Jyoti and Shweta, three young girls who belong to the Kurkuri and Bahadurpur villages of Phulwari Sharif Block, Patna, have a packed schedule. They are barely adults but have already taken their first steps towards becoming full-fledged entrepreneurs.
The trio cultivate large, nutritious oyster mushrooms in their homes and supply it to clients in and around Phulwari Sharif.
Oyster mushrooms contain water, and are rich in Vitamins B and C, containing important salts the human body uses. The folic acid, present in these mushrooms, helps fight anaemia, and due to their low sodium content, they are good for those who suffer from obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
All three girls decided to take this up to provide financial support to their families. Babita took up mushroom cultivation after passing out from Class 12, while Shweta managed to finance her own education and complete her graduation from the income she makes, thanks to mushroom farming.
Jyoti is a final year college student, and battling acute anaemia, she learned how to cultivate mushrooms.
The Aga Khan Foundation Lehar Project, aimed at empowering girls and improving their quality of life, began in Patna in 2015. Around 5,500 adolescent girls aged 14-19, were introduced to market-oriented options, like tailoring, computers, retail and hospitality sectors. Bandana Skill Development Centre collaborated and provided training to the girls, helping them develop links with the business world. Several secured jobs, several opted out, and the ones trained to cultivate mushrooms continue seasonal work, supporting their families.
Mushroom cultivation for these determined girls is prudent, as Babita points out to the Indian Express. It requires very little investment—around Rs 150 for husk, spawn and bags (to hang the husk)—and approximately 25 kg of mushrooms can be harvested in 20-25 days.
Oyster mushrooms can be grown year-round, by controlling the temperature and moisture, but the best seasons are September/October and March/April.
The girls from Patna are using mushroom cultivation to fuel other activities. Shweta convinced her in-laws to allow her to continue studying and growing mushrooms. Now pursuing her Bachelors in Library Science, she cultivates mushrooms, marketing them and selling them to villagers.
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Faced with constraints, these girls in Patna are making the best of what they have, choosing to cultivate and be entrepreneurs while continuing their education. This is surely a great way for them to realise their dreams.
Featured Photo Inset Image Credit:- The Asian Age.
(Edited By: Gayatri Mishra).