Reasons why this is a simple business:
The market for mushrooms is significant in provincial towns.
Cafes and restaurants are willing to pay good prices for
mushrooms particularly out of season.
• Initially the capital costs for establishing a mushroom
business appeared quite daunting to the group. Emil, the
SLLPC facilitator leading this pilot, and Ak-Bata decided
to test mushroom cultivation jointly with each partner taking
some of the financial risks. Emil did not give up on the group.
He recognised their openness and their potential to make
• Although RDC staff recognise that grants are not always
sustainable, they have gained valuable experience by helping
to establish this enterprise as a model for others. It is already
being demonstrated to other people and two individuals from
Kara Balta have since established private businesses in their
• There are now ideas to demonstrate the production of the
cultivation blocks in Chalvodar’s neighbouring villages to
reduce the expense of travelling to Bishkek to purchase the
• Having the right facilities is essential for mushroom cultivation
especially as temperature is critical for production.
• Important issues that should try to be resolved at the beginning
include leases. The danger for Ak-Bata is that their landlord
may require his building back at any moment and without a
written agreement the group’s business is vulnerable.
How to contact the RDC Elet Head Office:
286 Abdumomunova Street, Bishkek 720030, Summary
• SLLPC successfully tested this simple
tel: +996 312 610071, 611521, 611522 technology as a means to provide
fax: +996 312 610073 valuable additional income for women
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org in rural areas.
website: www.rdcelet.kg • The expertise gained from this pilot is
being replicated. RDC Elet is now
The Sustainable Livelihoods for Livestock Producing providing training in mushroom
Communities Project was managed by HTSPE Limited cultivation to village groups supported
on behalf of the UK Department for International by the World Bank funded Village
Development (DFID) Investment Project.
• With the right facilities, this technology
has the potential to generate income
all the year round.
“We have a vision to establish
a micro bank in our village.
We know how hard it is to start The first thing that Ak-Bata had to do was find a building
with the right environment for mushroom cultivation. Apart
from the right level of light and humidity, mushrooms need
a business without funds and
we want to provide a local
a reliable heat source during the cold winter months. After
some investigation and help from SLLPC, the group found
an ideal site – a cellar in the centre of the village, owned by Growing the
a private businessman.
service for other women. After negotiating with the owner, it was agreed that the group could
We hope that the income make use of the cellar rent free, provided that they cover all the
electricity costs. The group was ready to begin cultivating mushrooms in
generated by mushroom Some members of the group had reservations about this, especially August 2005. The technique used cultivation blocks that
were specially made by a business in Bishkek. These cost
cultivation will contribute to as it was only a verbal agreement. What if the owner changed his
mind and took back control of their production space?
25 Soms each. Each block produces approximately 1.5 kg
of mushrooms and has a productive life of about 2
establishing a larger fund” In the end, the group decided to go ahead – better to try the months. In winter mushrooms sell at 70 Som / kg. In
technology first before committing to a formal lease. If the business summer they sell at 40 - 45 Som / kg. The gross profit for
says Gulzahira Koshoeva, Self Help Group really takes off in the future they will have more confidence in taking each block could therefore reach 80 Som in the winter
Ak-Bata Leader, from Chaldovar Aiyl Okmuto, on bigger commitments. and 42.5 Som in the summer, but this does not take into
Panfilov Rayon, Chui account the extra heating costs in the winter.
Ak-Bata has the capability to cultivate 2000 blocks at any given
Sharing time. Blocks must be replaced every 2 months and it is
recommended that at least 300 blocks are replaced in one go.
This means that working capital is important to the business as
A Group Story there needs to be constant reinvestment in new blocks.
Once the right facilities had been found the group started RESULTS
Ak-Bata is a self help group of ten women that live in to think in more detail about costs and potential profit and
Chaldovar village, Chui Oblast. The group was formed in
TRYING SOMETHING NEW - MUSHROOMS a business plan was prepared with the help of SLLPC. The
group was very wary about investing all of their savings in To date, Ak-Bata has generated 14, 500 Som (353 US$) from
2004 by a social adviser that worked in the Aiyl Okmuto Ak-Bata was originally established as a savings and loans group for the business, reinvesting 6, 800 Som (166 US$) into the
the trial – what if it didn’t work? How could they secure the
(local administration). In Soviet times Chaldovar village women who had lost their jobs. It started with each member paying funds that they needed to provide loans to members in scheme for purchasing new blocks and paying marketing
was a kolkhoz (a state collective, comprising two large 150 Som (about 3.5 US$) into a revolving fund. It now has 26,200 times of need? (mainly travel) expenses and electricity costs.
farms). The village also had a sewing factory that made Som (about 640 US$) circulating between members. Inspired by
their own success, the group contacted the SLLPC project to SLLPC helped the group to resolve these doubts by sharing some There have been no difficulties in selling the mushrooms. In fact,
uniforms for the soviet army. The factory used to employ
investigate opportunities for generating income for the group fund of the financial risk. A grant was awarded to cover some of the the market is large and the group has been able to sell fresh
many of the women from the area but now business has
and its members. Facilitators from SLLPC were keen to help and, in costs of raw materials (mushroom cultivation blocks) on the mushrooms to many restaurants and cafes not just in Chalvodar
declined and only twenty women have jobs there. Ak-Bata
the early stages, worked with the group to strengthen its understanding that the group would also contribute half of the initial and its neighbouring villages but also in the wider Rayon.
members feel that they are a very important organisation
organisation and management. costs. The agreement was as follows:
in the village - setting a positive example for women who Using their own experience and knowledge the group has also
lost their jobs when the factory closed. The next step involved introducing some alternative money making SLLPC provided training – how to spawn mushrooms, daily started to preserve mushrooms and they plan to sell these out
ideas and this included study tours to a handicraft group in Talas management of the growing environment, and a study tour. of season or whenever their fresh stocks are low.
This case study tells the story of how Ak-Bata members are trying a
Oblast and a mushroom business in Chui. The Ak-Bata members Total training investment: 1435 Som (35 US$)
new way of making money. It highlights the importance of being At present the group does not intend to expand but they are
willing to take a risk when starting a new venture and it illustrates were interested in establishing a handicraft business because they AK-Bata renovated the production area and shelving units at very happy with their achievements. These are not just financial
some of the social benefits that group members appreciate as a were already experienced machinists, but they were also a cost of 3200 Soms (80 US$) achievements. The group is very strong and members see
result of trying something new. enthusiastic about starting something new. They decided to try a
SLLPC purchased 240 mushroom growing blocks to themselves as a role model for other women in the area.
new mushroom cultivation enterprise and this case study looks at
demonstrate the technology and to check that the conditions The three main achievements that the group feel they have
how the group set about putting this new idea into practice.
in the cellar were correct. 6000 Som (150 US$) was awarded made are:
for this. • Increased respect and status within their own families
Ak-Bata purchased a further 200 mushroom blocks for – particularly from their husbands;
5000 Som (120 US$). • Respect from other women in the village;
• Increased self respect and confidence for trying new ideas.
Total investment for the pilot =
15, 785 Som (approximately 385 US$)
of which Ak-Bata contributed 52%.