Mushroom cultivator, Bernadette Phiri

Bernadette Phiri inspires many other Zambian women to escape poverty. She expanded her Zambian oyster mushroom cultivation business. 
The video below was taken at the beginning of the 1 year mentoring process.
Expert Le Tran

Mrs. Bernadette Phiri and Jacana are very happy with the commitment of “E-volunteer” Miss Le Tran. She works from Arizona, USA. Have a look at other work of her at:

Miss Le Tran, Designer

Expert Chris & Stéphane

Mr. Chris Holtslag & Stéphane Poirié manage a mushroom farm in Helsinki, Finland. They help Bernadette with online support and advice. Have a look at their inspiriting web-site

Stéphane and Chris.

Bernadette Phiri started her Mushroom growing business 8 years ago, after attending an extensive training on how to grow mushroom. This training was conducted by the Department of Agriculture, University of Zambia. Of all the people trained in the district she is the only one that has survived and continued in this business. Bernadette is a widow with 6 children and 2 grand children. Jacana believes Bernadette is an enthusiastic and motivated entrepreneur who is ready to grow and become a role model for many women in the area.

Family Bernatette Phiri

Bernadette was selected for one year guidance by Jacana and she was performing well. She created her own logo, business cards and label for her mushrooms. She was also guided by Chris Holtslag and she learned a lot more about oyster mushroom growing.

In 2019, Jacana asked Bernadette to train a group of 7 potential mushroom growers. Jacana trained her and she did a wonderful job.

 Bernadette trainer


We stopped adding monitoring data after October 2019 for Bernadette Phiri but she is still using the skills he learned from Jacana and she still trains other mushroom growers.

October 2019

Jacana trained Bernadette in training skills. She trained a group of 7 people in oyster mushroom growing. The first morning she taught the group all the theory about growing mushrooms and in the afternoon they made substrate in a hygienic way and filled a 5kg bag with substrate and spawn. After the training Bernadette guided the mushroom growers at their mushroom houses. mushroom training practicals

 December 2017

What 2017 did for mushroom cultivator Bernadette

What 2017 did for mushroom cultivator Bernadette

September 2017

Unfortunately no water was found at Bernadette’s plot. With a ground water recharge system we keep on trying.

Bernadette worked very hard to fill her mushroom house with small bags. At this moment she has a very good yield and many mushrooms are shooting. She wants to extend her space.

The mushrooms are now cultivated in smaller bags

Yield from small bags.

August 2017

Osward drilled at Bernadette’s place high in the mountain where no truck or heavy drilling machine can come.

Drilling hign in the mountain at Bernadette

Drilling hign in the mountain at Bernadette

July 2017

The mushrooms in the smaller bags are growing well. This means she can grow much more in the same amount of space. She started selling them to the customers.

Mushrooms are growing is smaller bags

Mushrooms are growing is smaller bags

  • The labels are finished and ready for use.

Bernadette with Labels

Bernadette with Labels

Label designs

Label designs by LeTran

June 2017

Bernadette started growing mushrooms with smaller bags. With the help from Jacana she sealed bigger bags into smaller once. This means that she needs less substrate to grow the mushrooms and one bag needs less space in her mushroom house.

Bernadette preparing smaller bags for growing mushrooms

May 2017

  • Chris advised Bernadette to watch a video of mushroom growing project in Tanzania. After watching this video Bernadette decided to try growing her mushrooms in smaller bags. She ordered big plastic bags from Lusaka and with a sealing machine she made smaller bags. And now hoping that it works, because she can staple the bags, meaning that she can grow more mushrooms.

April 2017

  • We brought new seeds for Bernadette from Lusaka University.
  • Bernadette is revising the labels, Le Tran is changing them.
  • Bernadette is still counting the harvest from the first 20 bags.
  • She had some questions about the color changing of the Mushrooms and the thickness of the stem. We send an email to Chris Holtslag and he gave immediately a good answer and Bernadette can continue.

March 2017

  • Le Tran sent draft designs for the labels and the business card. Bernadette choose the colour, font type, drawings etc. out of the different examples. Le Tran will send the final design.

February 2017

  • Bernadette had a Skype meeting with Chris Holtslag, Co-founder/Managing partner at Helsieni ( Chris is growing oyster mushrooms in Helsinki, Finland and answered some questions from Bernadette. Questions about: how to avoid diseases, how to control temperature, moisture and CO2, what kind of substrate to use, how to create a constant production, packaging and more things. Some questions could not immediately be answered by Chris, without seeing some pictures of how she grows the mushrooms. Jacana made some pictures and sent them to Chris so that he can see them together with his companion. He will come back with some answers by Email.

Bernadette skypes with Chris Holtslag

  • Bernadette made a plan for continuously production of mushrooms. She started this month by planting 20 new bags, after a month she is planting another 20 and so on. She will keep records of the harvest of every bag and with this information she can plan the production line in a better way.

January 2017

  • Bernadette went together with Dinie to Protea Hotel, one of the upgraded hotels from Chipata, to find out if they want to buy the mushrooms in future. The manager of the kitchen was very pleased to see the good quality of Bernadette’s mushrooms. He is willing to buy them when they have conferences.
  • A driling team started to drill a borehole near to her mushroom house. The drillers could manually drill up to 9 meters, but unfortunately no water was found. In March when Jacana has a technical training the borehole will be deepened with another drilling method.

  • Skype meeting with Le Tran. Le Tran is a designer from USA who wants to help Bernadette in designing labels and logo for the business.
  • Dinie and Bernadette got some homework from Le Tran to go to town and look for packaging materials, sizes, examples of mushroom packages at Shoprite and SPAR and make pictures of food with mushrooms.
  • Bernadette has a name for her business: “Dettes Hill Farm”.


Bernadette Phiri in TrainingBernadette Phiri started the business of mushroom growing in 2007, after attending an extensive mushroom growing training conducted by the University of Zambia in the district. She later stopped because she was faced with water challenges and substrate shortages for growing mushroom. With the desire to rekindle her business she attended the 3 day business, finance and marketing planning training at Jacana. During the training she showed a lot of motivation and perseverance. She really wants to make her business a success. Jacana believes that Bernadette has the potential to be a  great businesswoman, but also a role model for other women in Zambian because she has the potential and she is really doing well.

At this moment (December 2016), Bernadette want to expand her business by growing her market network, from individuals to shopping malls, Shop rite and Lodges. Recently Jacana asked her to conduct a test – supply to SPAR Supermarket and see if they would welcome the product. The test has been a success and more institutions have shown interest in her product. For this reason, she wants Jacana to guide her in financial management, packaging, logo design and book keeping. Furthermore, she has asked Jacana if they can provide her with water, so that she can continue her business all year round, without water challenges.

Jacana wants to guide her in expanding her business successfully and possibly provide a water pump at her premise. However, for Jacana to do this we need your financial help. Every small amount is more than welcome.

Thank you on behalf of Bernadette Phiri!


Simply fill in (above) any amount you can afford.

Simply fill in the amount above.

Simply fill in an amount above.


Mushroom Cultivator: Want to expand the market network for the product.


  • SPAR cannot find the type of Mushroom that they like
  • SPAR cannot find a constant supplier of Mushroom
  • SPAR cannot find the variety of mushroom that they like. eg Oyster, button.


Fresh and good mushroom nicely packed and on constant supply year round.


Variety, organic and tasty mushroom always available.


Skill and experience in mushroom cultivation






  • getting more phone calls and orders. More than 5 per day.
  • financial books
  • new faces


  • word of mouth
  • friends
  • radio



I assume that SPAR will like my variety and testy mushroom and that they cannot find it within chipata and they will pay for it in the future.


I will grow both varieties of take samples to SPAR. If one agrees to the terms then I proceed.


Materials for the test needed K200+ transport =K220


K per kg

Click here to learn how to read a Lean Canvas Business model.

Jacana will support Bernadette in:

  1. Implementing a book keeping system
  2. Financial planning
  3. Logo designs and packaging of her Mushroom
  4. Provide her with access to water

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