Cats come to the rescue of mushroom farmers in Gidakom

Almost all 27 households in Gidakom grow Shitake mushroom

It is mushroom season and mushroom farmers are literally making a good use of their cats at Gidakom in Thimphu.

By keeping a cat at home, farmers need not have to spend sleepless nights guarding their prized Shitake mushroom from the attacking rodents. Apart from not having to shoo away rats with sticks and brooms, farmers are also hoping better income through the sale of unspoiled mushrooms.

Aum Zam, 46, one of the mushroom cultivators, said her mushroom farm had to be cleaned off the menace every time with a broom and she had to collect the spoiled mushroom on the logs earlier. Within a night earlier, the rummaging rats would have left behind about a kilogram of spoiled mushroom on the floor.

Aum Zam cultivates Shitake mushroom that thrives on logs. The farm rooms, where the logs are kept need to be moist and airy.

“Such conditions are also perfect for the rats to thrive and attack,” she said. “But, I am keeping cats in the farm every night, and so the mushrooms are not spoiled.”

Meanwhile, Shitake mushroom has become an important source of income for the people of Gidakom in Thimphu. The demand for the mushroom is growing, but so is the challenge of cultivation.

Rats have become a main threat to their prized mushrooms lately.

“Rats are a nuisance,” said another mushroom farmer, Aum Zangmo.

“They are destroying about two-three kilograms of mushroom in one night. But keeping cat is another solution.”

Some of the farmers say that they even made a good income this month after keeping cats in farm houses during the night.

“I sold more the 40 kilograms of mushroom in the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM),” Aum Zangmo said.

She said she also explored other possibilities like placing mouse traps, cakes and bowls of rice at every corner of the farm where she grows the mushroom to prevent them from the attacking rats.

“I am letting my cats free during the day time,” she added.

Meanwhile, a kilogram of Shitake mushroom fetches around Nu 600-700. Farmers earn between Nu 4,000 and 5,000 every week and Nu 120,000 to 140,000 annually through mushroom farming. The mushroom, which is grown on watered logs, can be harvested every three days.

Aum Tshomo, who is a dealer of mushroom at the CFM and gets her supply mostly from Gidakom, said she has noticed more mushroom sellers coming to her this year with fresh mushroom compared to last year.

“I could earn only about Nu 60,000 last year,” says another farmer, Dema, who has a small mushroom farm near her house. “Rats spoiled most of my mushroom before and with the help of a cat, I am hoping for better income,” she added.

Almost all 27 households in Gidakom grow Shitake mushroom.

 “It is another income for me rather than other kinds of agriculture crops,” Dema said, adding that some of villagers, however, are not willing to appreciate mushroom cultivation because of nuisance caused by the rats.

However, Dema said every household now wants get into mushroom cultivation.

The Shitake mushroom can be grown throughout the year, but the best season for cutting logs for its cultivation is during autumn and winter.

Kinley Yonten from Gidakom, T/phu