| By Rodgers Tembo |

The Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP) in Western Province has seen the high participation of men, women, and youths in cashew growing so much so that the disabled are side-lined. But one farmer has defied the odds.   

Born in 1975 in Lukulu District, Mwenda Mukwita is a physically challenged farmer and area induna based in Mwito camp, Mukwita village from Lukulu District who has beaten expectation by being a very successful cashew farmer.

Mr Mukwita developed his passion for cashew growing in 2017 after attending cashew sensitization meetings which were being conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture through extension officers and district staff, under the CIDP project.CRIPPLE

During the first planting season of 2017/2018, Mr Mukwita benefitted about 220 cashewnut seeds which he planted directly and benefitted 315 seedlings in the 2019/2020 season, from which only 5 plants died, bringing the total number of plants to 530, which are all doing very well.

Mr Mukwita explained that he was motivated to start planting cashew after learning of the advantages and benefits that can be realised from cashew, adding that he needs to plant more seedlings so that he can change the livelihood of his household.

“Cashew farming is not an easy thing and sometimes I do punish myself in the field, especially when planting, I could spend two to three hours just in the field but I know that things will change for better very soon,” Mr Mukwita said.

He explained that he has a small household size of six family members, and his children are still very young and he would want to secure a very bright future for them by taking them to school and providing for their daily needs through such ventures like cashew farming.

Mr Mukwita has a target of having about five to six thousand cashew trees and is expecting to be an inspiration to many farmers, especially those around his village.

“The biggest challenge I have is man power as I do not have money to hire labour and my children are still too young to do most of the work in the field but I do find ways of having the work done,” Mr Mukwita said.

The participation of physically challenged persons in growing cashew has not really been sensitised in the project, but this is an indication that the physically challenged equally play an important role in promoting the establishment of new plantations and opening up more land for farming.

Mr Mukwita urged his fellow farmers, both physically challenged and the able-bodied to just commit themselves and work extra hard so that they reap the benefits later. He also appealed to the project to find a way of motivating farmers of his nature so that they can also better their lives.

Meanwhile, Lukulu District Agricultural Coordinator Simon Masenga disclosed that as an office they were very encouraged by the determination that Mr Mukwita displayed, and to motivate him further, his cashew field was used to host the first ever field day in the district in April 2019.

Mr Masenga added that being an induna, there are a lot of people looking up to this man and with the work he is doing in his field, many will want to emulate his work, and we will have a lot of success stories to tell as a district.

“There is not much coming out of the crop right now, but Mr Mukwita has seen the vision and is expectant that come three years from now, his income will change and the economy of the area will change,” Mr Masenga said.

Mr Masenga said that as an office they will have to come up with strategies that will increase the participation of the physically challenged farmers at all stages in the value chain from cashew growing, processing, packaging and marketing of the crop.

And Lukulu District Commissioner Kaumba Joster Manjolo added that there are many people like Mr Mukwita who want to grow cashew but they fear the challenges of labour and access to land.

“Let me just encourage those who want to farm cashew that there are many windows of support, such as the citizens economic empowerment commission (CEEC) which is offering matching grants to deserving people in all the ten cashew hub districts,” Mr Manjolo said.

Mr Manjolo said that his office, together with the office of the DACO will find a way of helping Mr Mukwita with crops that he can intercrop in the cashew field so that he can be food secure as he waits for the cashew to mature and start bearing fruits.

The development of the cashew industry in Western Province will involve the efforts and participation of everyone regardless of their gender or disability. The disabled are also key players in poverty and vulnerability reduction through their involvement in many agricultural activities, cashew inclusive.