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Rendering self-reliance
Mushroom cultivation as a tool for self-reliance
Three-in-one training
Obligations and responsibilities
Alternate ways of doing things
Collaboration and partnerships
Opening and closing ceremonies
Operational recommendations
Monitoring and Evaluation


To promote income generation opportunities for people with disabilities living in Thailand, FAO initiated a project with the government’s Department of Public Welfare to reach out to the disabled people in rural areas.

The main objective of the project was to enhance opportunities for rural people with disabilities to become self-reliant and to show their capabilities, allowing them to re-integrate their community and be active members of society.

Mushrooms were selected as offering good market opportunities because of their high demand in the Thai diet. The project confirmed that both physically and mentally disabled people are fully capable of cultivating mushrooms and setting up a profitable enterprise. Mushroom cultivation further offers low start-up costs with short-term returns on investment. It further offers food sustainability and promotes self-sufficiency by the sale of mushrooms from the farm and within the community.

Through a carefully developed selection and training methodology, training has been made efficient and replication on a private scale has proven sustainable and even profitable. By using different methods and developing personal ways of accomplishing various tasks, people with disabilities can dot everything needed for establishing a successful mushroom enterprise.

The result can be seen in the self-satisfaction and higher self-esteem in many of the trainees. Several trainees married following training. Others have actually become physically stronger. Although incapable of making detailed business plans and keeping detailed accounts, successful project trainees can keep basic records of sales and income, and know how much profit they are making. Trainees with mental disabilities are also capable of basic bookkeeping and developing marketing strategies.

Several trainees have become trainers themselves, whether at the training center or within their family and community. The trainees have developed specific skills and serve as an example for new trainees. Other trainees have been requested by schools to teach adolescents or women’s groups about mushroom cultivation. All trainees have already transferred their know-how to family members who not only support them but also have found mushroom to be a major source of household income.

Rendering self-reliance

As trainers, you need to be aware that you have been selected for a very specific task, and that you will play a major role in the future of a number of people. Your responsibility is to enable people with disabilities for a better and happier life by making them self-reliant.

To give disabled rural people the opportunity of becoming self-reliant.

The main objective is to make disabled rural people reach economic self-reliance as entrepreneurs through income generation. You must remember this at all times during the training. All trainees that participate in the extensive training course are there by choice, and because they believe that the training course in mushroom cultivation will give them the necessary tools for a better life. It is your responsibility to make them feel “FULLY CAPABLE” of doing anything and everything.

Trainees must believe they “CAN DO”

Mushroom cultivation as a tool for self-reliance

Mushroom cultivation offers several advantages.

1. Mushrooms can be cultivated on a small and large scale to allow personal consumption or the start of a commercial enterprise.

2. Collected mushrooms can be sold as a supplemental or major source of income, depending on the size and number of mushroom houses.

3. People with physical disabilities are fully capable of accomplishing all necessary tasks in mushroom cultivation, even if some modifications in constructions and equipment may be needed. Specific tasks may need to be done differently because of certain disabilities.

4. Chronically ill or weak people can work in a cooler environment since mushrooms grow under the shade. This reduces physical exertion associated with open cultivation as with rice and small fruit.

5. Mushroom cultivation can be performed by mentally disabled people. Several tasks required are repetitive and can easily be learned.

6. For people interested in experimenting, the range in types of mushrooms and cultivation techniques can prove challenging and gratifying.

7. Mushroom cultivation offers a wide range of activities most suitable for people with various needs, diverse interests and specific capabilities.

8. Mushroom cultivation can be started at a very low cost. In the province of Ubon Ratchathani a mushroom house capable of holding 1,000 mushroom bags can be built for as little as 500 Baht (US$12) depending on the creativity of the constructor and its ability to use readily available and appropriate materials.

9. Mushrooms can be produced and sold within 2 to 4 months.

10. Collected mushrooms can be sold fresh in the village, on the local market or directly from the farm.

11. Spawns or seeds and spawn bags can be bought by the entrepreneur at a reasonably low cost allowing an acceptable profit margin. Thailand spawn is among the least expensive.

12. Spawn bags can be produced for self-use and can also be sold, thus increasing the profit margin and generating more income.

13. Mushrooms can be processed into various types of food, which will give an added value. (Mushrooms being highly perishable, they must be quickly sold or processed)

14. Mushrooms can be consumed providing high levels of proteins and vitamins to all family members.

Three-in-one training

Rehabilitation + Mushroom cultivation + Enterprise development

Rehabilitation + Mushroom cultivation + Enterprise development

As trainers, you must be prepared to advise trainees in three very distinct and different areas:

1. Rehabilitation

of the mind:

To give them more confidence

To prepare them for a happier life

To render them self-reliant

To get them to believe they CAN DO.

of the spirit:

They must accept who they are

They must accept how they are

They must accept their difference

They must learn about others

of the body:

They must learn to do things

They must learn to do things differently

They must learn to control their body

They must learn to accomplish new tasks

2. Mushroom cultivation:

Nature of Mushrooms and their properties

Basic knowledge in PDA, tissue culture and spawning

Producing bags

Techniques in mushroom cultivation




Waste management and recycling

Troubleshooting for pest and disease control

How to build a mushroom house

3. Enterprise development:

How to set up an enterprise

How to make this enterprise profitable

Basic bookkeeping

Obligations and responsibilities

Training and training related duties
Administrative duties
Maintenance of mushroom farm
Financial assistance for trainees
Daily book keeping and financial management

Training and training related duties

  • Oversee operation procedures
  • Prepare recruitment announcement
  • Organize trainees’ application
  • Arrange trainees’ registration data
  • Prepare for training
  • Visit all pre-selected trainees
  • Select disabled people for training
  • Organize opening and closing ceremonies
  • Set-up an exhibition as a demonstration for opening and closing ceremonies
  • Prepare equipment
  • Prepare training material
  • Study food properties and suitable substrates
  • Prepare trainees for training
  • Prepare site
  • Oversee trainee’s regulation
  • Arrange for entertainment activities during evenings and weekends.
  • Select expert guest speakers
  • Send trainees back to their home
  • Follow-up and assess trainees who completed training
  • Organize meeting to report all details of assessment
  • Continuously study to acquire more knowledge to better teach trainees
  • Coordinate loans for trainees (guidance on procedures)
  • Teach all skills necessary in mushroom cultivation as per THE TRAINING section.
  • Set-up sub-groups for training activities
  • Arrange for visual and hands-on training
  • Show trainees how to accomplish each task
  • Give suggestions to trainees on various ways of accomplishing each task
  • Show alternate methods of accomplishing each task
  • Explain the purpose of each task involved in mushroom cultivation to trainees
  • Show various options for processing mushrooms
  • Give basic knowledge in marketing
  • Give basic knowledge in business management
  • Visit successful mushroom farms in the region
  • Visit people selling mushrooms
  • Test trainees for theory and practice
  • Review and adapt teaching approaches when required
  • Give advice in case of problems
  • Review training and make recommendations for future training

Administrative duties

  • Registration and documentation
  • Arrange for vehicle to pick-up and send back trainees to and from centre.
  • Arrange for accommodation of trainees and trainers
  • Arrange for medical care
  • Administer budget for training
  • Oversee payments
  • Keep CLEAR accounting
  • Deal with expert guest lecturers
  • Cooperate with other mushroom farms to further study and train
  • Cooperate with companies and owners of mushroom farms for equipment and materials used in mushroom cultivation
  • Cooperate with office of Provincial Public Welfare
  • Cooperate with local Ministry of Agriculture
  • Cooperate with municipal, sub-district, district and provincial government administration

Maintenance of mushroom farm

  • Maintain premises and buildings in good working condition.
  • Continue production of mushroom bags to ensure continuous income and readiness for future training
  • Continue sales of produced mushrooms
  • Promote and give knowledge to outside visitors and interested people.
  • Give advice to people visiting the farm interested in mushroom cultivation
  • Organize meetings and discussions every 15 days

Financial assistance for trainees

Both technical and financial support will be needed by trainees to help them set up their new enterprise. In many countries, governments have set up special funds to help people with disabilities in enterprise development. These vary in terms of amount and whether they are loans with interest, interest free, or special grants. Information regarding these loans can be found at local municipal or provincial administration offices, or through various ministries responsible for the wellbeing of people with disabilities namely ministry of labor and social welfare, ministry of health, and other ministries, depending on the country. Trainers should get relevant information to assist trainees in preparing all necessary documents needed when applying for financial support. Trainers should also help follow up granting of financial support and monitor payment of loans by giving advice in income management, when needed.

Daily book keeping and financial management

Simple yet accurate accounting must be kept on a daily basis. It is highly advisable that all moneys go through a bank account in order to ensure close monitoring of income and expenses. Specifically in the case of mushroom cultivation, mushrooms are harvested and sold on a daily basis and therefore generate regular income. Trainers may also be in a position to supply raw materials to trainees and therefore raw materials will be sold regularly.

In order to ensure daily monitoring, it is necessary to keep several financial records.

Financial records required

1. Monthly cash flow statement (on a daily basis writing all expenses, income and balance;

2. Inventory book (including all raw materials with purchase prices, date of purchase, supplier’s name)

3. Mushroom sales record (for all daily sales of mushrooms)

4. Raw materials sales record (for all raw materials sold to ex-trainees or other buyers)

5. Credit control system (with specific credit notes with accounts receivables giving the precise date of purchase, name of buyer, item purchased, quantity, price and total amount, payment due date).

6. Petty cash voucher system (for quick purchasing of necessary goods)

7. Cash book (following bank in flows and out flows)

Alternate ways of doing things

Answering specific needs
Creative thinking

Answering specific needs

Although people with disabilities are capable of accomplishing all tasks involved in mushroom cultivation, certain adaptations and strategies need to be developed. Two people with the same disability may not have the same abilities and therefore it is necessary to fully understand both disability and capability. Each person is different.

Creative thinking

Trainees themselves will develop their own personal ways of doing things. Nevertheless, trainers need to give direction and options. The best example can be seen in the following pictures, which shows how a person can use the feet to replace the inability of using two hands.

Making substrate bags generally needs the use of two hands. Each step in making bags can be done with the help of feet.

Filling the bag

Holding bag

Placing plastic ring

Tying bag with rubber band

Collaboration and partnerships

Awareness of new training programs and collaboration with other agencies and organizations will help disabled trainees reintegrate society and become fully active members of their community. Furthermore, some agencies can offer know-how in personal development, mushroom cultivation and business development. For example, teaching institutions such as universities and technical colleges may offer courses in agriculture and farm management, which may be useful in the training course. They can be invited as guest lecturers.

The following is a reference list of organizations and institutions that should be contacted and requested for collaboration and eventual partnership.

  • Technical colleges
  • Universities
  • Private companies (using mushrooms or involved in agro-industry)
  • Associations
  • Organizations for people with disabilities
  • Local Non Government Organizations
  • International Non Government Organizations
  • Central Government agencies (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Health, Others...)
  • Local Government administrations (Village level, municipal level, sub-district level, district level, provincial level...)
  • International Agencies (United Nations FAO, ILO, UNDP...)

Opening and closing ceremonies

Certificates of achievement


The importance of opening and closing ceremonies needs to be highlighted. These ceremonies offer the opportunity to show to those organizations and institutions what programs are involved along with their objectives. It further shows to governments, both local and central, projects involving people with disabilities and especially demonstrates these people’s will and capabilities. These ceremonies should further encourage political figures to do more in support of people with disabilities.

Certificates of achievement

As a recognition of the trainees’ perseverance and capability of learning about mushroom production, certificates of achievement should be remitted to each trainee. It is a low cost yet high impact incentive, which confirms to all people within the trainees’ family and community that they have successfully completed the course in mushroom production.

Operational recommendations

Monitoring and Evaluation

Check acquired knowledge
Check mushroom house at trainees’ home
Make sure trainees received their raw material
Frequency of visits
Check sustainability
Permanent support
Encouraging support from family and community
Keep notes of all visits and meetings with ex-trainees

Following training, it is necessary to evaluate trainees.

Check acquired knowledge

Verify that trainees can accomplish each task during training. Following training, verify acquired knowledge in mushroom cultivation. If there is some part that is not well understood, which is necessary for starting the business, it must be clarified before sending back trainees to their home.

Check mushroom house at trainees’ home

Once trainees have returned home to set-up a mushroom house, trainers must go and visit them to make sure that the mushroom house is ready and properly constructed.

Make sure trainees received their raw material

If the training center supplies raw materials necessary for trainees, it makes it easy to monitor delivery and quality. However, if trainees need to buy their materials from the market, trainers should make sure that trainees are taught how to select the right materials.

Frequency of visits

Trainers must regularly visit trainees at their home at the beginning of their new enterprise; at least once a month. Once trainees are comfortable and sure of themselves, frequency can be set to once every three months, then once every six months.

Monitoring should be conducted at least once a year to make sure that everything is fine.

Check sustainability

Trainers must verify the income and yield of mushroom farms to verify whether the farm is profitable or not. Trainers should strongly encourage trainees to keep clear records of sales and expenses. If the farm is not profitable, trainers are expected to be capable of identifying the causes and help solve the problems.

Permanent support

Trainers must monitor problems of trainees whether they are technical in mushroom cultivation, or social because of family or community. Close interagency collaboration will help minimize problems and can help solve those encountered. For technical problems, trainers may refer to a specialist in mushroom cultivation from the Ministry of Agriculture or from a University. A resource person close to the trainees’ farm would be an advantage.

Encouraging support from family and community

Trainers must encourage family and community members to support trainees in their new enterprise. Trainers can offer to follow-up on financial support requested by trainees, whether it has been received, and give advice on its reimbursement.

Keep notes of all visits and meetings with ex-trainees

Trainers should log all visits to trainees including problems and solutions. This will help continuous and future monitoring and verify if there is any improvement or deterioration in the situation of trainees. These changes can be in mushroom production, in income generation, in their livelihood, their eating habits, in their emotional state. These notes should be placed in a special file accessible to all trainers and management team members.

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