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Initiative to woo farmers back to cashew nuts


A section of Cashew Nuts fruits in its early stage in the farms of Kilifi county.

It is a few minutes past 6am at Matsangoni village in Kilifi County, and Lucy Jumwa is inspecting her polyclonal cashew nuts orchard.

She is among the 12,500 farmers who have reverted to cashew nut farming after most of them abandoned the crop in the 1990s due to low prices following the collapse of Kilifi Cashew Nut Cooperative.

The farmers have embraced a new drought-resistant, fast-maturing, and high-yielding polyclonal variety distributed by the Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF) group in Kilifi and parts of Lamu. 

EFF group launched the project, funded by ETG Climate Solutions in 2012 with 3,700 farmers at Matsangoni Ward. 


Empowering Farmers Foundation Program Manager Mathew Jilani (Center) shows visitors a cashew nut seedling at a Cashew nut tree nursery in Matsangoni area, Kilifi County.

It has scaled up the project to incorporate 12,500 farmers from five other wards: Watamu, Dabaso, Kakuyuni, Tezo, and Ganda, where cashew nut seedlings are being distributed to achieve a target of one million cashew nut trees in the next two months.

“We were stranded after the cashew nut industry went down, forcing many people to cut down the trees, but EFF came to our rescue. They first came with experts who examined the few old cashew nut trees that gave us poor yields, and they pruned and sprayed them. After a short period, the trees started producing again,” said Ms. Juma.

The mother of four said towards the end of 2021, EFF started training farmers on the best agroforest practices and climate change resilient agriculture and introduced a new variety of cashew nut seedling known as polyclonal together with the moringa tree and millet for intercropping.

She added: “They told us that the new variety was drought-resistant and could be intercropped with other drought-resistant crops such as millet and moringa, whose seedlings were given out to farmers.” 


Lucy Jumwa, at her cashew nut orchard at Matsangani area in Kilifi County.

Ms. Jumwa received 47 seedlings in 2022, and so far, 16 trees have started yielding fruits.

“The organisation took us through various training sessions that we implemented in our farms. A farmer has to dig two feet deep and two feet wide holes in which to plant the seedlings. The inner soil is mixed with compost manure or animal manure that is readily available in our homes, and what follows is planting the seedling,” she said.

A farmer would have to water the seedlings for at least one week after planting, so the best planting time is during the rainy season according to Jumwa.

“My first seedlings were planted during the dry season, and I had to use a locally improvised drip irrigation where I could fill a plastic bottle with water and then make some needle-size holes and place them beside the trees so that the water could slowly drip all day long,” she said.

Jumwa earned Sh 22,000 from her first produce and used the money to pay school fees for her children. The returns encouraged her to expand, and she went for more seedlings from the nearest farmer.

“I’m going to expand my farm because the market is readily available. I sold a kilogramme of cashew nuts at Sh50 to a dealer as opposed to Sh20 in the past, and the reason is that the current quality fetches good money,” she said.

Her story sounds similar to that of Monica Mwananje from Matsangoni area who owns 60 cashew nut trees that are at the flowering stage.

“I have not harvested yet, but from the look of things, I expect a good harvest. We have many more farmers reverting to cashew nut farming after witnessing the transformation most of us are undergoing. Cashew nuts require little attention, and one can continue with other activities while waiting to harvest the nuts,” she said.

The farmers have been taught how to prepare nurseries, and this has encouraged and attracted many more people to the crop, which they also say is helping them tackle climate change since cashew nut trees absorb carbon.

Seeds are sourced from Tanzania, and there are various steps taken before they are put in the nursery starting with sorting of the possible seeds to germinate by soaking them in water. Those that float on water are removed since their germination chances are slim.

According to EFF Program Manager, Mathew Jilani, 12,500 farmers and 80,000 acres are targeted for the second phase of the project in five other wards in Kilifi County. 

“We have ten nurseries, two in each ward so that we bring the seedlings closer to the farmer early enough as opposed to the way they used to get them in the past, and this also helps in reducing seedling damage,” he said. 

 Empowering Farmers Foundation Program Manager Mathew Jilani

He indicated that some companies had set bases in Kilifi to process cashew nuts but getting enough raw materials is a problem due to the scarcity of the nut.

According to EFF Lucas Mithole, the EFF Project director at Matsangoni, the organization trains selected farmers who then train more farmers across the villages.

“We train lead farmers who in turn train more farmers deep in the villages,” he said.

The ETG Climate Solutions Global head, Ilya Tyuvildin said that the programme will go on until farmers in the entire county are empowered.

“We spent close to two years researching the various program types and agro-forestry systems that we could potentially be deploying, and it was essential to properly prepare and have the right information at hand. Once that information was available, we were able to start pilot projects,” he said.

According to him, the demand for cashew nuts in the global market was huge.

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