How Mycology Can Be Integrated in S.T.E.M Education in Africa
MAMF (Mbeng Adio Mushroom Farm) in Cameroon has successfully created and managed the production of three mushroom farms since 2007. Most of the farmers are female, with a focus on women empowerment to encourage self-sufficiency and the betterment of life. Mycology is the study of fungi, or mushrooms, and this science can be included in the education of people in Africa.
Encouraging the importance of education over work for school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa has had its challenges. Often earning an income has been placed at greater importance rather than attending school. But with new economic programs, the adults go to work, and the children can go to school. Schools place a strong focus on reading, writing—essential life skills‚ but it’s important to encourage S.T.E.M.—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, because the children of today will be the scientists of tomorrow.
The study of fungi can encompass edible and inedible types, fungi for food and the study of their properties and the substances they contain. These substances may have benefits to be used in medicine. There can be many possibilities as scientists study the field of mycology.
Mycology may be important for the advancement of technology, as it is possible to use mycelium to absorb harmful toxic and radioactive waste. Mycelium can also be used as an alternative material due to its resilient and biodegradable properties.
The advancement of technology through mycelium can also be specialized in engineering, and can be used as a scalable industrial product; that can be used safely and effectively. And finally, math is needed to do all the calculations for mathematical models for mycelium growth and ergosterol formation.
Why should the focus be on mycology with farming in Africa, rather than some other type of plant, fruit, or vegetable? Because mushrooms can be easily grown almost anywhere. It does not require a lot of land to set up a mushroom farm. Mushroom growing is also not seasonal, much like fruits or vegetables can be. The substrate of the previous crop of mushrooms can also be recycled and used as fertilizer. Mushroom farms are a sustainable and affordable form of gardening, and they also require a minimum of watering. Different varieties of mushrooms are also in demand in most parts of the world, so a profit can be ensured.
It’s possible for mushroom farms to be created from the grassroots and up, and to aid in female empowerment, as no heavy labor is required to run them. Women can also work the farm during the day, but still have plenty of time to care for family at home.
This is the main reason why mycology is so important to be taught as a part of S.T.E.M in schools. Many graduates may decide to pursue their own mushroom farm business, or, to provide services in the development of mycology. There may be many more exciting possibilities for African people to study and learn about how mycology can become a beneficial business in their community. For this reason alone, it’s important to promote the addition of mycology to S.T.E.M. programs in Africa.
“My dream is that Mycology should be to this generation of African children in the next couple of decades, as computer technology was to Asian children in the past two decades.”
Bridget Mbeng Mbu
Founder and President of Mbeng Adio Mushroom Farm