The government is in the process of reviving the cashew nut sector that was once the chief economic lifeline for the coastal communities.
The move comes after the sector experienced a steady decline over the last decades due to inadequate agronomy and extension services, ageing trees, weak farmer organizations, weak legislation and a poor regulatory environment
Speaking during a media webinar organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Principal Secretary, Crop Development and Agricultural Research, Prof. Hamadi Boga said Kenya’s production currently stands at a meagre annual 5,000 Metric Tonnes, compared to neighboring Tanzania’s 300,000 MT.
He however expressed fears that previous efforts to resuscitate the sector and improve the cashew value chain failed to realize desired results but was optimistic that the current review of the initiative may finally reap the anticipated fruits.
“The Government is intent on reviving the cashew nut value chain, especially in the coastal regions and we are currently reviewing a proposal for partnership from the ETG Farmers Foundation (EFF) to transform the livelihoods of communities living in the coastal rural regions.
The EFF aspires to impact over 700,000 small holder farmers in the next 7 years through activating the cashew value chain and increasing production to over 200,000MT annually”, he said .
Prof. Boga however reiterated this can only be done through stakeholders coming together to resolve the bottlenecks that have bogged down the sector.
“We will need to create synergies between the National Government, the concerned County governments, private sector, development partners, processors, and farmers,” stressed Prof Boga, adding that discussions are currently underway with the County Governments through the Council of Governors and various stakeholders on how to commence the partnership.
The PS said that out of the 6 coastal counties that have been planting Cashew Nuts, the revival will start with Kilifi and Kwale before moving to Lamu saying that farmers will have to replace their ageing trees with new, higher-yielding varieties and invest in proper and cashew specialist agronomy and services
The Revival , PS Boga said will see creation of around 500,000 direct and indirect jobs along the value chain especially through initiating of a local agro processing revolution that will be able to generate over Ksh 32.2 billion (USD 300 million) in forex in the7th year.
Mahesh Patel, Chairman of ETG Farmers Foundation a registered non-profit organization set up with the aim of stimulating agricultural growth and fostering the development of rural economies, said it is possible to transform the livelihoods of Kenyans in the coastal rural area and move them to a middle-income economic status through the cashew value chain.
“As farmers grow, we grow,” and this Foundation seeks to better the lives of smallholder farming communities through holistic approaches that will not only boost their yields but improve their overall quality of life, improve food security, strengthen nutrition and increase household incomes”, he said
Patel said the cashew nut value chain has the potential to bring about sustainable socio-economic development explaining that currently the foundation is running a similar project on the Cashew Value Chain in Zambia .
ETG Farmers Foundation operates in six African countries across eight value chains impacting over 100,000 farmers in Sub Saharan Africa.
Kenya cashew production has traditionally been one of the main sources of livelihoods at the coast and grown in Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Mombasa and Lamu Counties. The industry employs directly and indirectly employs 4000 and 50,000 people, respectively.
In 2016, the area under cashew was estimated at 21,284 ha with a production of 11,404Mt valued at Ksh. 398,799,443. Kenya has also an installed processing capacity of 45,000 tons/year raw cashew, which is way above production level.
Commonly referred to as white gold worldwide, cashew is a globally prized commodity whose nuts are not only expensive but fetches good prices internationally. Africa produces 60 percent of the world’s total raw cashew nuts (RCN) providing a main source for foreign exchange earnings from Agriculture in Tanzania, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Benin, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria.
By Wangari Ndirangu