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Sh240 factory gives hope for cashew nut farmers at Coast

By Benard Sanga | November 2nd 2021
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (left) and Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba sample a cashew nut seedling at the Ten Senses nursery at Kakanjuni area in Kilifi North Sub County, in Kilifi County as a delegation from the European Union looks on Tuesday, 12, June, 2018. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Cashew nut farmers at the Coast should expect better prices in the next harvest season in January and February when the new Sh240 million European Union-funded factory starts to process their produce.

Annually, the new factory will have a capacity to process 5,000 metric tonnes of cashew nuts, a third of the country's current total production.

India and Vietnam process over 70 per cent of nuts from Africa.

The factory will be ready in about two months, according to Frank Omondi, the managing Director of Ten Senses Africa (TSA) Cashew Ltd, that owns the factory.

He said the equipment they need for the new factory will be arriving from Vietnam in the next two weeks. 

Omondi said the country will create over 1,000 jobs in this labour-intensive sector through the programme.

The new factory is located at Tezo in Kilifi County.

This is a culmination of a four-year journey aimed at reviving the once vibrant sector at the Coast, said Omondi.

Nearly one million cashew nut seedlings have been distributed to 15,000 organic farmers in Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu counties. The benefiting farmers have all registered to carry our organic cashew nut farming.

“We have sold all of last year's produce. There is a huge market for cashew nuts organically produced which fetch good prices,” Omondi said.

The programme has also rehabilitated over 3,000 trees, in what is technically known as top-working, by removing aged and unproductive branches.

This, according to Omondi, has increased production tenfold and the harvest will provide raw materials to the new factory.

The EU is carrying out the project in partnership with Visegrad Group (v4) countries of Slovakia, Czech, Hungarian, and Poland as well as the Norwegian Agency for Development.

EU's programme manager Adolfo Cires said the political and economic union of 27 states located in Europe, is working with various private sector players to add value to the cashew nuts and increase export volumes.

"We would like to see close working relationship between the private sector and smallholder farmers to increase job creation and export volumes,” Cires said.

AgriFi Challenge Fund, through Self-Help Africa, is working with Sote Hub, in partnership with TSA Cashew Ltd to include youth in the programme.

So far, 150 schools have established farms and received over 72,000 seedlings. A total of 200,000 high-quality grafted seedlings will be distributed to selected primary and secondary schools.

“The school’s programme is mutually beneficial, providing the schools with alternative revenue sources, equipping students with practical agriculture skills and supporting the country’s greening agenda by the planting of additional trees to help mitigate challenges of climate change adverse effects,” said Mr David Ogiga, the programme manager at Ten Senses.

The initiative is also supported by  Kilifi, Kwale, and Lamu county governments.

“We have digital scales and farmers will have their cash transferred to their phones on delivery of their produce to our factory or other bunching collection areas that will be created,” Omondi said.

Cashew nuts production is expected to increase from the current 12,000 tonnes to 15,000 tonnes in the next harvest season.

The project to revive the industry comes over two decades after the collapse of the sole processor in Kilifi - Kenya Cashewnuts Limited (KCL).

In 1989, KCL was got caught up in governance and financial challenges, and in February 1990, most of its employees laid off.

At the same time, Powdery Mildew Disease (PMD), which had not been witnessed before, hit the crop, massively affecting yields.

Lack of finances affected the provision of extension services to farmers, which spelled doom for the sector.

Most farmers cut down their orchards when the factory collapsed in 1998.

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