In Himachal Pradesh, as well as in most places of India, mushrooms are largely seen as the food of the privileged. Even hotels and restaurants mushroom is used sparingly and if one travels to smaller towns, especially in restaurants where customers are from lower income group, the menu doesn’t include mushroom. In fact Gucchii -- one of the rarest varieties of mushroom - was found only in the forests of Himachal Pradesh. But it’s high cost kept it out of reach of people with modest income.
So mushroom has been a costly delicacy and a status symbol.
However, in and Solan this is set to become a thing of past as hundreds of farmers are now growing mushroom. So, the once-coveted edible fungi is fast becoming everybody’s food, reaching the plates of common consumers. There are about 806 mushroom farms right now in Solan – the reason why in 1997 it was named ‘Mushroom City of India’.
Popularity of mushroom farming is also becoming a great alternative livelihood for thousands of unemployed and poor of the farming communities. In fact 69% of the state’s total workforce is employed in the farming its allied sectors including mushroom cultivation.
Government records state that mushroom cultivation was introduced to local farmers who lost large amount of money on apple orchards, because of diseases of apples and poor weather. Since most of the farmers own only tiny plots of land, covering the loss on apple crop failure is difficult for them. So growing mushroom has become a popular means of livelihood for these small, marginal farmers, as well as agricultural labourers.
Pratibha Rolta says that government is actively promoting mushroom cultivation, providing seeds and technical assistance. As a result, in Solan farm labourers now have a chance to be financially independent by becoming mushroom farmer themselves, instead of putting hard labour on apple orchard for marginal wages.
To watch more videos of Pratibha on Solan’s gender, economy, health, art and culture, click here.
In this video of UPS Manwan Awoora school, Kupwara, Kashmir, the community correspondent Pir Azhar shows us that there are nine classes for 250 students, and due to lack of space, the lower primary classes are held outside in the open. Also the school has only 7 teachers.