Cashew nuts. Production of the crop has declined in the previous years due to neglet by farmers and other stakeholders. Photo credit: Dr. Raju Kasambe.
Farmers from Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale counties are set to seriously retake cashew nut farming in the region thanks to the spirit of devolution. This comes after a decade since the government banned the export of cashew nuts which has seen the production of the nuts reduce from 14,000 to 8,000 tonnes.
The ban was effected in 2009 when farmers in the counties 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.
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According to the Nut and Oil Directorate, land under cashew nuts consequently decreased from 28,758 hectares in 2015 to 21,284 the following year. The production also went down from 18,907 to 11,404 tonnes in the same period.
In addition, lack of sufficient support by the national and devolved governments in the years that followed the ban is to blame for the poor performance.
However, Ten Senses Africa, a Kenyan company that works with smallholder farmers and groups as the supplier of nuts, through European Union (EU), is set to use Sh240m to plant a million trees in the three counties.
“Our company will propagate seedlings, provide extension services and buy the nuts for processing once we establish in the coming three years,” said John Matole, the company’s business development officer.
“The seedlings will be procured by the county government on behalf of farmers at subsidised prices.”
Farmers who will not get the subsidised seedlings will buy them from Ten Senses nurseries at Sh100.
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Kwale County on the other hand through the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has set aside Sh1.5m this year to procure seedlings in the same scheme funded by (EU).
“Previously the county did not have programmes to promote cashew growing and marketing in the years after the 2013 General Election. This dealt a blow to the revitalisation programmes,” said Joanne Nyamasyo, the ministry’s executive officer.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has also issued about 400,000 seedlings to farmers in the region. These clean planting materials can be accessed by farmers from KALRO’s Mtwapa (Industrial Crops Research Institute) or call +254-020-2024751.
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Other potential markets
In addition to Ten Senses Africa company which has promised to buy the nuts from farmers for processing there are other companies which are ready to buy the produce from farmers.
Wondernuts Ltd, a cashewnut processing firm based in Kilifi County is urgently looking for willing farmers to grow the crop to meet its processing capacity of 5000 tonnes per year.
The company which has dealt in cashewnut for 20 years is now processing only 2,000 tonnes a year and sometimes has to close down for long periods because of lack of the raw material.
“I encourage farmers to engage in contract farming with as we will ensure reliable market for their produce to relieve them the hustle of looking for one,” said Bobby Thomas, director of Wondernuts Ltd.
Ten Senses Africa company can be reached on +254 795 371 230 or +254 714 901 000 while Wondernuts Ltd on +254-412318933.