Couple’s mushroom recipe to change the lives of tea workers


To date, the couple are training around 1,000 women, some of them from walled gardens, in regular cultivation and in large quantities.



Binita paul

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Siliguri

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Posted on 12/25/21, 2:40 AM


A couple from Siliguri are helping women residents of closed tea estates in the Siliguri subdivision, and families who have lost their main income due to elephant attacks, to restore hope amid hardship.

Anirban Nandy, rural development researcher at IIT-Kharagpur and co-founder of “Live Life Happily”, and his wife Poulami Chaki Nandy, regularly visit tea plantations to train women in growing mushrooms for sale.

To date, the couple are training around 1,000 women in tea plantations, some of them from walled gardens, in regular cultivation and in large quantities of mushrooms.

“Mushrooms have a huge demand in the hospitality industry these days. We are trying to develop business links so that the women can sell the mushrooms they grow without any problem, not only in Calcutta but in the local markets of Siliguri and the hills. A kilo of mushroom brings in at least Rs 120, ”Anirban said.

The couple got the idea while interacting with mothers of children, especially girls, in the closed tea gardens they were helping study amid the pandemic outbreak last year.

“When we taught the children, we also met the mothers and learned about the financial constraints their families were facing. It was then that we came up with the idea of ​​training mothers in mushroom cultivation so that families could afford to let their children study, ”Anirban said.

Anirban added that in some tea estates in the Siliguri Subdivision, trespassing by wild elephants is common. “In Merry View, a tea plantation in the Naxalbari block of the subdivision, there are around 120 families who have lost their main livelihood to elephant attacks in recent times. Women in these families are facing a huge financial crisis. So for them, too, training in mushroom cultivation proved to be useful. Some of these women have already started making money selling their products, ”Anirban said.

He said these people did not have land rights and were not legally allowed to use the land where they live for agricultural and other purposes. “It also prevents them from applying for bank loans. We are therefore in the process of creating self-help groups for these women in the gardens, ”he added.

Poulomi added mushrooms was a good choice in this context. “Growing mushrooms doesn’t need a lot of space. We have brought women together in self-help groups. Each group has 10 members who grow mushrooms in their own huts, ”she said, adding that there were 50 women’s self-help groups in Gangaram tea plantation and 40 groups in Merry View.

SHG sends mushrooms to Howrah and Burrabazar wholesale markets in Calcutta. “We are also working in other tea plantations near Bagdogra and Bidhannagar (both in the Siliguri subdivision,” Poulami added.

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