Plans by the government to come up with a cashew nut promotional council which could eventually be translated into a board have been shelved by the NARC Government. This is despite cries by the local people to have the government come up with a workable plan for the revival of the crop.
There was a new commitment geared at ensuring a profitable and sustainable Cashewnut Industry at the Coast, which has been spearheaded by both government and private sector. Over the years, the industry has drastically declined and played part in the increased levels of poverty in the region. The current efforts to revive the industry culminated in a stakeholder's consultative workshop at Mombasa more than three years ago but nothing has been done to push the agenda to the next level.
It was attended by farmers, processors, non-governmental organization and high-level officials from Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The key recommendation of the second cashew nut consultative workshop was the formation of the Cashew nut Promotion Council. The Coast Development Authority was mandated to convene and chair the Council preparatory committee with the objective of formulating necessary instruments for the establishment of the Council.
According to Action Aid, the NGO that has been involved in efforts to revive the crop, the Coast province has an area of approximately 84,000 sq. km, out of which a total of 6.4 million ha is agricultural land. Of the area only 31 per cent is agriculturally potential for crop production and the remaining 69 per cent is Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) supporting livestock production and game parks. The province is the home of the Cashew nut tree (anarcadium occidentale) in Kenya. The crop is grown in agro-ecological zones three and four of the coastal lowland. Presently, 30,000 hectares are under Cashew nut.
The processing of Cashew nuts started at Kilifi in a very small way in 1930, with roasting and cracking nuts under a mango tree. By 1935 and following a visit to India, the late Mr. W.G. Lilywhite introduced a primitive type of drum roaster where shelling, peeling and grading was done by hand in an open shed. In 1950 an improved type of drum roaster was installed and new drying ovens built.
Kenya Cashew nut Limited went into production on August 5 1975 and started by processing five tons per day. At full capacity, it was processing 60 tons per day and employing a labour force of 2000 people (1200 women and 800 men). The demand for Kenya's Cashew nut was and still is considerable. The main export markets were/are North America, Japan, Middle East, Europe and Australia.
During the peak period of the Cashew industry, it was a major export earner for the country. Its contribution to GDP during those days was about four percent. By 1982, the Kilifi Factory made a net profit of Ksh.26 million up from Ksh.3 million in 1975. These figures indicate that this was an industry that was doing a lot for this nation. This potential is still remains untapped.
Currently, Cashew nuts are grown mainly in Kwale, Kilifi, Malindi and Lamu districts. The area under the crop has declined from 36,000 hectares in the late 1980's to 27,000 hectares presently. The main causes of the decline is related to low prices, pests and disease, limited research and other market constraints. This led to neglect of the trees whose yield declined to below optimum.
In view of the above, a Cashew nut Consultative Stakeholders Workshop was held with a view to revitalize the industry. The workshop recommended the formation of a preparatory committee to develop terms of reference for the establishment of the Kenya Cashew nut Promotion Council (KCPC). The Coast Development Authority was mandated as a convener and chair of the preparatory Committee. The proposed Council is an interim measure for shrouding the growth of the Cashew nut industry.
The vision of the council is the promotion of a profitable and sustainable Cashew nut industry in Kenya while its mission is to steer and develop a sustainable Cashew nut industry by the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders through research, extension, production, processing and market in order to compete effectively and profitable locally and internationally.
According to the chairman of the steering committee, Dr Boniface Mwandoto who is also the acting Managing Director of the Coast Development Authority, the council shall carry out integrated development of Cashew nut production and utilization with focus on increased productivity, processing and product diversification.
The specific functions shall be to: promote and coordinate integrated development of the Cashew nut industry in Kenya; maintain data bank on Cashew nut and its by-products; and publish statistics on the same. It shall publish books and periodicals on market news, country profiles, government notifications and circulars, export and import statistics, commodity prices, and notes on coconut, amongst others.
The Council shall in addition recommend intervention strategies for improving the marketing of Cashew nut and its by-products by adopting measures aimed at achieving premium and incentive prices; encouraging transfer and adoption of modern technologies for research, increased productivity of Cashew nut and its by-products; promoting the local consumption and utilization of Cashew nut and its by-products; forming of stakeholder groups that will spearhead issues of mutual interest and initiating mechanisms for self-sustenance.
Apart from serving as the central forum for consensus building among producers, processors, traders and policy makers, the council shall establish measures of regulating imports and exports of Cashew nuts and its by-products; fix specifications, standards and grades for Cashew nuts and its by-products in liaison with standardization bodies; and lobby for a legal framework.
Prosperous agriculture on a sustainable basis requires region specific forums where specific farming problems are scientifically studied and analyzed while solutions proposed are effected. Such forums should also influence the decision makers on matters pertaining to long and short term development. The problems facing the cashew nut industry are many but not insurmountable. If farmers in conjunction with service providers and risk takers approached them from a business angle, they will be a phenomenon of the past. This calls for a multistakeholder linkage among growers from the Cashew nut producing districts, farmer run marketing groups, processors/roasters, cooperatives, traders/exporters, NGOs, CBOs, institutions such as KARI – Mtwapa, Ministry of Agriculture and policy makers elected by the stakeholders from across the Cashew nut industry.
By Ngumbao Kithi
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