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Kilifi farmers to start organic cocoa farming as an alternative crop to cashew nuts

Cocoa Pods On Tree
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Farmers from Kilifi County are set to start organic cocoa farming in a bid to diversify their agricultural output after the county government announced plans to introduce the crop as an alternative to cashew nuts which has been faced by challenges such as pests and diseases lowering production.

In 2009, the national government banned the export of cashew nuts when farmers in the coastal region started falling down cashew nut trees to burn charcoal as the ageing and disease-ridden trees could not produce quality and quantity nuts anymore. This lowered the production affecting the sector.

However, a feasibility study conducted by the Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (Kalro) and Kilimo Sasa Fund found that the region’s soils and weather can sustain the production of cocoa which can be used as an alternative cash crop.

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To facilitate cocoa farming, Kilifi County Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Kilimo Sasa Fund (KSF) and the Community Agriculture Resources Development Program (CARDEP) for a project dubbed Cocoa for New and Sustainable Livelihoods (Consul).

“Cocoa farming has the potential to immensely transform the livelihoods of the local farmers as it will be centered around the local farmer with the county government and Kilimo Sasa Fund offering the necessary support through training and use of bio organic fertilizer,” said Amason Kingi, the county governor.

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According to Kingi, the project is going to diversify the way the county does agriculture as farming in Kilifi has mainly been subsistence, but the programme would see farmers produce cocoa for commercial purposes.

About 99,000 farmers in Kilifi South, Kilifi North and Malindi sub-counties would be targeted for the pilot phase of the project.

If successful, the county plans to set up a cocoa processing plant in the area.

“Cocoa are very sustainable plants that farmers can inter-crop with other cash crops and can mature within two and a half years,” said Gary Stubley, Kilimo Sasa Fund Executive Officer.

“We are keen to develop a cocoa seed variety that will rival other cocoa producing regions across the world.”

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