Home   >   NEWS & VIEWS   >   News

  • Kwale strives to revive cashew farming years after ban

    Jan 14th, 2019

    A decade since the government banned the export of cashew nuts, the industry continues to face many problems. Unlike macadamia farming, which has recorded a four-fold increase in the 10 years of the export ban, cashew nut growing has declined significantly.

    Due to the influx of nuts from Tanzania, it is difficult to compute the actual production in the Coast, Nut Processors Association of Kenya (NutPAK) chief executive Charles Muigai said. When the government effected the ban in 2009, processors were receiving 14,000 tonnes of cashew nuts from farmers every harvest season. The volume has gone down to 8,000 tonnes.


    According to the Nut and Oil Directorate, land under cashew nuts 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. The macadamia story is different. Production of the nuts has grown from 11,000 to 45,000 tonnes in the last decade. From a million trees in 2009, the number increased to more than 3.5 million in 2017, covering 28,000 hectares. The reduction in cashew nut production is partly blamed on farmers in Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale counties felling the trees for charcoal or switching to other crops. The industry was already facing challenges at the time of the ban.


    According to a 2009 survey by the Institution of Development and Business Management Services, there were about two million cashew nut trees in the region, with 20 percent of them beyond the production age.

    Lack of sufficient support by the national and devolved governments in the years that followed the ban is largely to blame for the poor performance, Mr Muigai and Kenya Cashew Nuts Growers Association say.

    After the ban, a team from NutPAK, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and growers with the support of the Provincial Director of Agriculture was formed to chart a recovery path.

    “When agriculture was devolved, the programme lost the support of the ministry, dealing a blow to the revitalisation programmes the team had initiated,” Mr Muigai said.


    The team, which had started to rehabilitate cashew trees and planting new varieties, folded shortly after. "Without the transition of the gains the team had made, there was low funding and interest in the industry by county governments during the first years of devolution," Mr Muigai said.

    Kwale Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries executive Joanne Nyamasyo admitted that the county government did not have programmes to promote cashew growing and marketing in the years after the 2013 General Election. However, the county government has set aside Sh1.5 million this year to procure seedlings in a scheme funded by the European Union (EU). The EU, through Ten Senses Africa company, will use Sh240 million to plant a million trees in Kilifi, Kwale, and Lamu counties.


    The firm will propagate seedlings, provide extension services and buy the nuts for processing once a factory is established the coming three years, company business development officer John Matole said. “The seedlings will be procured by the county government on behalf of farmers at subsidised prices,” Mr Matole said. Farmers who will not get the subsidised seedlings will buy them from Ten Senses nurseries at Sh100. Mr Joseph Mutuko, a Msambweni farmer, said it would require a lot of effort to make locals switch back to cashew nut growing because many have embraced other crops like cotton, mangoes, coconuts and passion fruits.

    “We had a terrible experience with cashew nuts. Farmers will need a strong guarantee from the county to begin producing the crop again,” Mr Mutuko said.


    According to a 2009 survey, just 7.9 percent of Coast farmers applied pesticides on their cashew orchards. “This may explain the low levels of production and revenue generation from cashew nut farming,” the study said. Lake Kenyatta Co-op Society chairman David Njuguna said the average yield for an unsprayed tree is now less than five kilogrammes. “A well-managed tree can produce up to 20 kilogrammes," he said.