STATEN ISLAND, New York — Over the last several decades, Food insecurity in Africa and poverty rates have grown. In 2020, Africa Center for Strategic Studies revealed that more than 100 million Africans faced extreme levels of food insecurity with a quarter of a billion people in Africa experiencing hunger in 2019. While malnourishment and starvation are among Africa’s problems, farmers and growers are unfortunately struggling to meet the food demands of the continent’s growing population, with factors such as drought, instability and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the situation. For this reason, experts explored Juncao technology to help farmers grow food in unfavorable environments.
What is Juncao Technology?
Invented by Professor Lin Zhanxi of the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China, Juncao is a herbal plant used to cultivate different kinds of edible and medicinal mushrooms. Zhanxi began his research on the project during the early 1980s, trying to find a way to eliminate rural poverty and protect natural resources. He developed Juncao technology shortly afterward by studying the effects of chopped grasses, finding that people can use these grasses to grow herbaceous plants.
How Juncao Technology is Different
Juncao technology differs from the traditional methods of growing edible fungi as it does not rely on wood as a source for cultivation. Normally, when farmers or agricultural workers grow mushrooms, they utilize wood logs as a surface for the fungi to grow and spread on. The downside, however, is that people need to cut down trees, which in turn, harms the environment. In addition, trees take a very long time to grow, which is not ideal for farmers trying to grow mushrooms in impoverished communities. Juncao technology can address the environmental problems traditional methods pose and give people the means to grow food quicker and more efficiently.
Switching to Juncao Technology
While the environmental benefits of Juncao are very noticeable, there are several other reasons why countries in Africa could benefit from utilizing this technology. One reason is that mushrooms are very nutritional. To this point, it is worth considering that there are hundreds of millions of people who suffer from malnutrition in Africa. In 2019, World Vision reported that 234 million people living in the sub-Saharan region were undernourished, not accounting for the total number in Africa.
Mushrooms as a food source can prevent the nutritional disorders many impoverished Africans live with as mushrooms are “rich in protein, vitamins and inorganic materials.” Consuming different types of mushrooms can also have potential benefits as there are many mushrooms that can aid in the protection of the immune system. Some species of mushrooms have the potential to alleviate the risk of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
Though the nutritional value of mushrooms is easily recognizable, there is another appealing reason why countries in Africa may optimize Juncao technology. Mushrooms can take as little as four weeks to cultivate, meaning that wood could deplete very quickly. Juncao technology solves this issue while enabling farmers to grow an unlimited amount of mushrooms at once. Through training and the proper resources, farmers will be able to grow mushrooms year-round, through different climates and seasons. Ultimately, Juncao technology has the potential to address food insecurity in Africa and several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The technology promotes the health of individuals of all ages, improves nutrition for those who are malnourished and addresses hunger not just in Africa but in countries all over the world.
Measuring the Impact
Juncao technology has already started to make its way to developing countries in Africa. In Rwanda, for example, former Juncao worker Emmanuel Ahimana capitalized on the technology, starting his own business that specializes in producing mushrooms at a low cost. Since its founding in 2016, Ahimana’s company has grown to produce roughly “10,000 tubes” of mushrooms per month. Rwandan locals buy these tubes in batches to resell at markets. Juncao technology is having a positive impact in Rwanda, creating jobs and improving economic conditions for rural communities, while addressing food insecurity.
Juncao technology also has a presence in South Africa and Lesotho. Both nations have implemented fungi growing systems that enable farmers to grow 1.2 tons of mushrooms annually within only “10 square meters of land.” This method is helpful when conditions like drought and dry weather make traditional farming extremely difficult. Because of Juncao technology, people in these countries are now earning an income from growing mushrooms, allowing people to support themselves and their children.
As it currently stands, Juncao technology has reached more than 100 nations. Institutes like the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University now provide training for international students, which is how people like Ahimana were able to optimize the technology in the first place. Overall, Juncao technology leaves a positive impact on many people’s lives. If more countries start to utilize this unique method, the food-growing method could potentially address the food crises occurring across the globe.
– Eshaan Gandhi