Steamers, Straw, & Second Chances
Did you know that farming mushrooms can change the lives of community members in Cambodia? We want to share with you a few stories of change from families who take part in our mushroom cultivation project, known as Thera Metrey–which means “Compassionate Earth.” Keep reading to learn more about this project and hear directly from those it is impacting!
Thera Metrey is a project designed for smallholder farmers in Cambodia. The goal is for these farmers to sustainably improve their families ’ wellbeing through growing mushrooms.
Here is how it works: As a local Cambodian cooperative enterprise, Thera Metrey operates as a collective sorting, processing, and delivery system for mushrooms and other cash crops produced by farming households. World Hope International helps make the connection between the farmers and the markets at competitive prices, ensuring production leads to income.
What does a mushroom farm look like? Farmers build hothouse structures that contain rows of shelving that will be beds for the mushrooms to grow on. These shelves are then covered with tightly wrapped bales of rice straw, which provide the perfect conditions for growing mushrooms.
Using leftover rice straw to create growing beds gives farmers the opportunity to participate in a natural recycling process. Not only does using straw bales help recycle bioproducts, but it also gives rice farmers a secondary income source through selling leftover rice stalks to mushroom farmers for a fair price.
The mushroom houses are kept dark, hot, and moist, creating the ideal environment for mushroom growing. This requires the use of a steamer, a machine used to keep temperatures and moisture levels up in the mushroom hothouses. Recently, Thera Metrey has invested in a new, more efficient, steamer which has been in circulation among mushroom farmers in the region. The purpose of this is for the farmers to experience innovation and to share insights towards an effective and efficient solution that can be applied to increase the production of mushrooms.
“Hello, I am Han. I am married and have a six-year-old boy. I have been working as a rice straw roller for four years now.”
“Before mushroom production, my job was unstable, but now I can earn some money regularly from rice straw rolling. Even though it is not much, I can provide for my family. In addition to this, I also do rice farming and other farm activities.”
“Through this program in the community, there are mushroom growers, they now have the ability to build bathrooms, buy motorcycles and improve their livelihood.”
“I want to thank all the donors supporting this program, that has been providing a job for me. I am so thankful.”
“My name is Pin. I live in (the) Kompong Cham Province, Cambodia. I have five members in my family. I have three children–one boy and two girls.”
“Since I started mushroom production with World Hope International, my family’s income has increased by about 40%. It has been three years since I joined this program.”
“In 2021, we have been facing some difficulties from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, I am continuing to produce mushroom, grow rice, and farm some other crops as well.”
“Thanks to donors of the mushroom project, which enabled me to support my family and my community. We hope to have their continuous financial support for this program. Thank you.”
Mushroom farmers, Nol, and his wife share their experience using the new steamer for the first time.
“During our steaming, everything was easy, from starting the fire to adding water after a few hours of steaming. My wife even helps me with steaming by adding wood. She never did that with the old steamer because it was too hot for her, but the new steamer was easier for her.”
“I would say that comparing both steamers, version 1 for each cycle I use to use two carts of firewood (USD 40), but for the first time in mushroom production with version 2 from Thera Metrey I only used less than one cart (USD 20) and still have wood left. It saved 65% in firewood costs and time consumption. And my wife is happy with what we had just experienced.”
“This is me and my third day of harvest with (the new) Thera Metrey steamer.”
“Day one (I processed) 13 kg (of mushrooms), day two more than 50 kg (of mushrooms), and on day three (it was) 35.6 kg (of mushrooms).”
“I still expect two more good days of harvest. After my experience with the steamer from Thera Metrey, I will invest to have my own steamer like this. It is convenient to use and maintenance is cheaper compared to the old version of the steamer.”
“Thank you for the donor that funded the steamer that helped me reduce the costs of my family’s source of income.”
World Hope’s Thera Metrey mushroom project in Cambodia was first piloted in 2016 and established mushroom production as a climate-friendly and women-centric approach to reducing harmful labor migration and improving family incomes. Today, the project continues with a focus on the financial and professional sustainability of the producer group and its transformative impact on the community.