When going to a foreign country, common goals are to learn and experience a new culture and to teach others of yours. Going to Sierra Leone to grow mushrooms, we must take into consideration their cultural norms. Firstly, women mushroom farmers may run into problems with obtaining agricultural waste from other farmers in terms of discrimination against women. Secondly, we need to take into account their problem solving. Learning about the vast differences in how people in different countries approach problem solving, we do not know how Sierra Leone mushroom farmers would approach an issue. Will they keep quiet and try to figure it out by themselves? Turn to a manual? Ask around? In attempting to make it as easy as possible for the new farmers, we need to learn how to best help when needed. Lastly, mushrooms are not often part of their practices for both farming and consumption. We will need to do well in communicating with the people to get this foreign concept across to them. For example, a small percent of the population is allergic to the spores either through inhalation or consumption. However, cooking the mushrooms before eating cooks off the spores and gets rid of that risk.
From my experience selling mushrooms directly to customers at our local farmers market, many people are used to eating domestic button and portobello mushrooms raw. However, we sell varieties of wild mushrooms, some with more spores than others. And I have to take care to notice new or unknowledgeable customers and inform them of risks they may be taking eating certain wild mushrooms raw. But if someone with an allergy to the spores consumes them, they would only suffer a stomach ache.
While women are less discriminated against in the united states, it is still prevalent. For example, I had to deal with harassment from a gas station worker every time he was there. He would try to convince me to smile every time I went in to purchase gas with cash and it made me uncomfortable to the extent where I never visit that gas station anymore.
Lastly, I often do not want to turn to experts for help because I wish to find ways to figure the problem out myself. So to address that personal norm, detailed, clear instructions would be most helpful.
Cultural practices that can be leveraged to address community and market problems are their good views of Americans. Because they tend to look fondly upon Americans, by suggesting changes to their system they may take more care to listen and try to put the suggestions into practice. Secondly, we already plan to leverage Sierra Leone’s large unemployment rate to cater to those available to utilize our mushroom production systems to get them jobs add to the market. Lastly, we can leverage the absence of mushrooms in their culture to help the new farmers in terms of supply and demand to make a greater impact on the new farmers with pay. If mushroom are perceived as a delicacy and are sold at high rates that would be very good for the new farmers.
In regards to the African context presenting differing challenges from the American context, though there may be discrimination against women in both countries, it may be to a greater extent there. Men may not want to learn mushroom farming practices from a young female.
Also, the African context may view mushrooms in an entirely different way than American do. From my experience, the general first responses to wild mushrooms are either disgust or fear. The African context may be similar or it could be the complete opposite with most of them viewing strange mushrooms as a gourmet delicacy.
Lastly, the African context may have problems in terms of keeping mushroom production spaces clean, compared to the vast amounts of available American technologies. Certain aspects of the mushroom production process require very sterile rooms for the most success to keep competing bacteria out of the mushroom cultures.
Resource wise, Africa has different plants and farming products which will affect the mushroom substrate and grain for the spawn. In Kansas, where sunflowers are abundant and easy to grow, we use the ag-waste of dried sunflower seed shells in our substrate. We also use the wood chips from the trees often grown around us. While substrate is very lenient, mushrooms still like certain materials over others. So when growing mushrooms here we need to keep in mind if the resources we are using are available in Africa.
Secondly, which has been lightly touched upon, is the different access to technologies in Africa versus America. In our mushroom production system, we put a lot of electricity and technology to refine our mushroom growing process. Gigantic autoclaves, boilers, and sterile rooms are hard to obtain in Africa.
Lastly, items used in the mushroom production process must be kept in mind comparing availability in America to Africa. We may use mason jars to grow spawn but we can’t get mason jars in Africa easily. It is similar with special mushroom grow bags with filters. We have to test less conventional items to grow mushrooms in that are more available in Africa. For example, we plan on trying to replace the mason jars with beer bottles and have tried use regular plastic bags with a rubber banded filter on top.