Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) Director Rosemary Owino has encouraged farmers in Makueni County to diversify into nuts and oil crops to boost their earnings.
Owino said this at the Agriculture offices in Wote Town where she disclosed that her organization has already distributed 20,000 seedlings of cashew nuts and coconuts to farmers to plant in the area.
Consequently, she assured farmers that there was a ready market both locally and internationally saying they have licensed ten companies that deal with cashew nuts operating in the country.
“The cashew nuts we have distributed is polyclonal variety from Tanzania which are drought resistant and has a high yield that can fetch huge profits for our farmers,” she said while addressing the media.
Further, Owino said that polyclonal cashew nut variety was developed through intense research and improvement and could do well in low rainfall and dry areas.
During the function, she revealed that her organization has given over 1 million cashew nut and coconut seedlings to farmers in regions that cultivate the crops.
Some of the areas the crop is planted include counties like Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Kitui and Makueni.
At the same time, Owino said that to ensure availability of cashew nut and coconut seedlings in these areas, the organization has set up nurseries in the respective areas.
When mature, the director said one cashew nut tree could give the farmer 50kg and above per harvest while adding that planting the crop would enable farmers to achieve the 10% forest cover in their farms.
“Planting the cashew nut tree will go a long way to conserve the environment in the counties that plant the crop,” she said.
Speaking at the same function, the Department of Agriculture and Irrigation Chief Officer (CO) Dr Martin Mboloi, said that Makueni County has the potential to plant the crops and urged the farmers to embrace cash crops to reap maximum profits.
Mboloi further said that his extension officers were ready to assist the local farmers to ensure they planted the right variety that would increase the harvest hence fetch good profits for farmers.
He also said that growing the cashew nuts and coconut in high volume would open an opportunity for the county to start value addition in processing edible oils from the crops.
“By adding cashew nuts and coconut farming in this county, we can begin manufacturing the edible oils from these crops to boost our economy and reduce importation of nut oils into Kenya. This will increase local production while the residents benefit the healthy cooking oils from the crops,” he said.
By Patrick Nyakundi and Lawrence Mwendwa