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Chinese mushrooms find place in Malian menus
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12:37, July 27, 2008

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At the crack of dawn, Malian women, armed with a basket or bowl, rush to the Yangtze Plantation, which is located along the River Niger in the capital Bamako, to buy fresh mushrooms, which they later resell at the market.

The plantation, named after China's longest river, is run by Chinese entrepreneur Yang Yansheng, who has succeeded in cultivating Chinese fungus on Malian soil, after overcoming numerous difficulties through experiments.

The 37-year-old man had worked for 12 years with a Chinese construction company that is well established in Mali, before he decided to leave to embark on a different path in 2007.

Yang chose to create a truck farm to grow mushrooms and vegetables, staple foods that are in high demand in the markets of Bamako.

"In the beginning, it was very difficult. My colleague Mu Fuqian and I visited every corner of the Malian capital in search of the necessary equipment for growing mushrooms, under a blazing sun and scorching heat," said Yang.

"Finally, we managed to overcome the problems associated with temperature, humidity and aeration, components that are of major importance in the management of fungus crops. Thus, we were able to acclimatize the plant in Bamako. This initial success encouraged us and today we have continued on the same path," said Yang.

Here, Malians refer to the man affectionately as "the Champion," which is a corruption of the French word for mushrooms "champignon."

According to Yang, his product is also found in a few Bamako supermarkets, sometimes next to large white mushrooms imported from Europe.

But mostly, customers prefer the Chinese fungus which costs about 3,000 CFA francs (about 7.2 U.S. dollars) a kg, which is much cheaper than the imported mushrooms selling at 12,000 CFA francs per kg.

Members of some international organizations are also beginning to experience the pleasure of visiting Yang's farm. Very recently, a UN Development Program official purchased, at once, 3 kg of mushrooms from the farm.

Interest in the project is growing rapidly and some clients, mainly from Togo and Cameroon, have even suggested that the Chinese farmer commences a similar project in their countries.


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