By Marion Wagaki, 24 August 2020
The Kenya government is reviving the cashew nut sector in the Coastal region of Kenya, where it serves as a major source of livelihoods, directly and indirectly employing 4000 and 50,000 people, respectively.
In line with Kenyan government’s Big Four agenda and the 10-year Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy, the State is committed to transforming the livelihoods of communities living in the rural coastal regions by impacting over 700,000 smallholder farmers in the next 7 years through activation of the cashew value chain and increasing production to 200,000 MT annually.
By setting up a local agro-processing revolution, the government aims to create about 500,000 jobs along the value chain and generate over USD 300 million in forex by the 7th year. The proposal is being reviewed for a partnership venture with the ETG Farmers Foundation (EFF), a registered non-profit organization that stimulates agricultural growth and fosters the development of rural economies. According to the State Department of Crops and Agricultural Research Principal Secretary, Prof. Hamadi Boga, discussions are underway with the County Governments through the Council of Governors and various stakeholders on how to commence this partnership.
Commonly referred to as white gold worldwide, cashew is a globally prized commodity where Africa produces 60 percent of the world’s total raw cashew nuts (RCN), with Tanzania, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Benin, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria leading production in Africa. Global demand for processed cashew nuts and their value-added products is increasing steadily with international prices ranging between USD 800.00 and USD 2,000.00 per metric tonne.
Professor Hamadi noted that inadequate agronomy and extension services, ageing trees, weak farmer organizations, weak legislation and a poor regulatory environment have seen Kenya’s production stagnate at a meagre annual yield of 5,000 MT, compared to Tanzania’s 300,000 MT. He observed that previous initiatives and programmes aimed at reviving the cashew value chain had not borne much fruit. The government is now banking on the creation of synergies between the National Government, the concerned County governments, private sector, development partners, processors, and farmers to manoeuvre some of the past pitfalls.
Mahesh Patel, Chairman of ETG Farmers Foundation (EFF), reiterated that equipping smallholder farmers with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed beyond subsistence farming would lay the foundation for effective local market economies, thereby increasing access to inputs, finance and buyers.
“As farmers grow, we grow. My belief is that it is possible to transform the livelihoods of Kenyans in the coastal rural area and move them to a middle-income economic status through agriculture, specifically the cashew value chain”, Patel said.
EFF currently operates in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia across several value chains namely cashew nut, sesame, coffee, pigeon pea, green gram, maize, sugarcane, rice, soybean, common bean, chickpea and groundnut. The Foundation is currently running a similar project on the Cashew Value chain in Zambia.
In 2016, the area under cashew was estimated at 21,284 ha with a production of 11,404Mt and valued at Ksh. 398,799,443. According to KALRO, the area under the crop is now estimated at 23,034 hectares with an estimated annual production of 12,848 tons valued at KES 744,900 million.