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    | By Angela Kabamba |30th March 2021 

    Cashew nuts are one of the most versatile and healthy nuts on the planet, and it is for this reason that they are incredibly becoming popular all around the world.

    To many, growing them at home is surprisingly easy as long as you have the right climate and a little bit of knowledge about the process.

    It was first introduced in Zambia in the 1940s. The (Anacardium occidentale) tree is a tropical evergreen that starts fruit bearing after 3-4 years of plantation.

     The growth of the industry then was very slow due to low production and lack of marketing and processing facilities until 1985 when the government commercialized cashew production and processing by establishing the Zambia Cashew Company.

    The initiative was meant to strengthen the out-grower scheme to benefit the local people through the sale of their crops to the company.

    Cashew is a strong plant that is renowned for growing in sandy soils that are generally unsuitable for other trees.

    It is mainly farmed in the west part of Zambia and is one commodity that has been identified as being a high-value cash crop that can earn the country much-needed foreign exchange, as the current cashew prices stand around US$6,000 per tonne in comparison to copper prices which is at less than 5, 000 per metric ton.

    In Zambia, the current cashew nut production stands at 850 metric tonnes per year from an estimated, 1, 700, 000 trees that produce 0.5kg of raw nuts per tree annually. According to a ministerial statement made in parliament by Hon. Dora Siliya, then Minister of Agriculture, on Tuesday, 22nd November 2016.      

    It is proved that the cashew hub in Zambia has approximately 1.3 million ha with a potential to produce 130, 000 metric tonnes of raw cashew nuts per annum, while the industry has the potential to create about 10, 000 jobs and support 100, 000 small-holder farmers.

    It is against this background that the Government of the Republic of Zambia sourced financial support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) amounting to US$55 million to revive the industry.

    The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is implementing the project in the 10 districts of Western Province of Zambia namely Limulunga, Mongu, Sikongo, Kalabo, Nalolo, Senanga, Mitete, Sioma, Lukulu and Shangombo, over a period of 5-years, which is likely to come to an end in June 2021.

    The districts were selected based on their high potential for cashew production, less frost problem, high incidence of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, and vulnerability to environmental degradation and climate change.

    The aim is to benefit 60, 000 smallholder farmers/producers and processors (farmer groups and private sector) including 30, 000 (50%) women and 7, 000 youths, each planting one hectare (100 cashew trees) and creating about 6, 000 full-time jobs (3, 000 women) and (1, 000 youths) along cashew value chain from production, processing to marketing, and produce 130, 000 tonnes of cashew nuts per annum that will be used for both export and domestic consumption with the objective of supporting the country's economic growth and food security.

    It is projected that at full maturity of the cashew trees, each farming household (with 1 ha) will have an annual income of ZMW 2, 223 (USD 430).

    The development objective is to contribute to economic growth and food security, contribute to the country's poverty reduction and improved household incomes through improved cashew production, processing and marketing.

    The project will increase cashew tree productivity and production, contribute to improved household income, increase foreign exchange earnings from cashew products, and improve rural employment for men, women and youths.

    With the CIDP, Zambia expects to reach a cashew nut production totalling USD 7.3 million by 2021, from which 99% will be exported and 1% for domestic consumption according to French Plaza, a business media involved in employment, news and statistics.

    The cashew project affirms the government's commitment to reviving the cashew sub-sector in the western part of Zambia by ensuring that smallholder farmers benefit from the massive investment that has seen the majority of women and youths participating in the project.

    For a 60-years old widow with 8 children, 2 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren  Dorothy Samba Makina of Kaeya camp in Senanga district of Western Province, says her investment in the cash crop will last for generations that will benefit her family even when she is no more.

    Mrs. Makina who claims to be an expert in cashew processing and management narrates that she had no idea how to plant cashew trees but now boosts 5, 600 cashew trees which stand on 50 hectares of land, planted in 2017 to 2018 from the inception of the project in the Province, some 4- a year ago.

    She has so far harvested a 20kg bag of nuts but laments that the harvest was not good enough because the first trees she got were just ordinary trees not the dwarf variety from Tanzania with a good yield recently given to all the farmers in the Province, of which she also benefited and has so far planted.

    Mrs. Makina explains that even if some may feel that the maturing process for the plant is long, she is encouraging other cashew farmers to intercrop their cashew fields with other crops like cassava, groundnuts, millet, maize, beans and many others so that when the trees are still in the process of production, there will be other supplements to sustain their families.

    Mrs. Makina who is also a lead farmer in the district notes that it is imperative for cashew farmers to take advantage of the project before it ends, by ensuring that the product made is sold and helps support their children's education and be food secure at the household level.

    She has since encouraged more women to venture into agricultural activities, as she is confident that a woman can provide all the basic needs for a family, adding that they should take part in such projects, than waiting for handouts from the government.

    Mrs. Makina explains that her plan is to buy a car from the investment made, which will be written cashew.

    Meanwhile, Senanga district Agricultural Coordinator Mukelabai Mwangala said the district's target of cashew beneficiaries was 7, 050, of which 5 295 cashew farmers benefited, which include men, women and youths.

    Mr. Mwangala explains that so far, the district has 4, 800 new cashew fields with 593 900 trees that are sprayed thrice a year, adding that 750ha of land was replanted, while 1 500ha of land was rehabilitated.

    He said the district has gone a milestone ahead where 13 camp officers and 64 nursery operators were trained on nursery establishment and cashew crop management, 1 sorting /bulking shed has been constructed, while 1 irrigation nursery and a 4.5 km feeder road have also been constructed in Lukanda camp within the district.

    Mr. Mwangala stated that the district has reached 75.1% in terms of targeted beneficiaries, and 97% target for infrastructure.

    Meanwhile, a report from the agribusiness department in the district indicates that the cashew produced, bulked and sold for the 2020/2021 season from the camps of Lukanda, Liangati, Ngundi, Seeyi, Namabunga and Kaeya after sorting stands at 299.50kg.

    A check at the Barotse Cashew Company in Mongu district of Western Province reviewed that 1kg of processed cashew nuts goes at K190, while a 500g is K105, 250g is K65, 100g K35, 75g K30, and 50g K25 respectively.

    And Lukanda camp officer of Senanga district Jones Sichiila said enough knowledge has been acquired from the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP) by the Agricultural Extension Officers through a number of trainings, which has been imparted to the farmers in the district.

    Mr.Sichiila explained that after undergoing trainings with CIDP, the officers went to each zone within the district and chose lead farmers who were also trained to be trainers of trainers to the other farmers, and were told to form at least a group of 15 cashew farmers to work with and teach them how to manage cashew trees.

    He said his camp has a total number of 700 farmers of which 500 are cashew farmers who benefited from the project, and out of the 500 cashew farmers, 330 are women, while 170 are men.

    Mr. Sichiila stated that farmers have also been taught how to preserve trees from some infections like powdery mildew, and sucking insects that might prevent the trees from having the desired product in case they are attacked by pests, by spraying prescribed chemicals like lamb Dex and Corovil so that other trees are not infected.

    He has since urged the youths in Lukanda camp and the district as a whole to participate in the project, as Western Province has great potential for growing cashew than most parts of the country, saying cashew farmers should not tire, but continue cultivating the cash crop, as it is an investment that will benefit the future generations to come.