Mushroom Development Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in Assam, supports small-scale farmers to cultivate, produce and market mushroom as a livelihood opportunity.Despite agriculture being the mainstay of majority of the population, farmers in the north-east region remain the most exploited in the entire workforce. Lack of access to the organised market combined with the decreasing size of land holdings and high rate of unemployment, economic deprivation continues to exist in the region. To address this economic situation, the Mushroom Development Foundation (MDF), a not-for-profit organisation, started working towards spawn production, training of farmers, and marketing of mushrooms to leverage the available resources.
MDF has encouraged many small scale agricultural farmers to practice mushroom cultivation to sustain themselves and created a strong network to further their interest in this agricultural activity. The MDF model follows a cluster based approach in which a Cluster Coordinator supervises a group of about 100 farmers in mushroom cultivation, planting materials and marketing activities. A Cluster Monitoring Committee, comprising of experts in the field, is responsible for all the clusters in the northeast. The farmers are the prime stakeholders and based on their interests, decisions are made to cultivate fine mushroom products. The clusters are also linked to the rural shops for easy access to the market.
MDF is presently working in various villages of Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. It has plans to replicate its efforts in neighbouring countries such as Bhutan and Bangladesh due to similar climatic and geographic conditions. MDF has given farmers a strong collective voice with which they can negotiate for a minimum price in the market, basic facilities from the government, and loans for expanding their businesses. It believes that the success of mushroom farmers will pave the way for other farmers to organise themselves and demand their rights.