By Nancy Mukelabai
Agriculture is the main livelihood for most people in the rural areas and it is in this vein, that the government normally prioritizes implementing most projects in such areas. This is with the view of providing services to the rural people for them to have food security at household level, improve nutrition and generate income.
With government’s aim of improving the livelihood of its citizens in all provinces of the country, it revamped cashew growing in Western province through the launch of the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP). This project was launched in 2016 with the main aim of contributing to poverty reduction by improved household incomes through improved cashew production and processing.
The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture over a period of 5 years, in 10 districts of the province. The 10 districts were selected based on several criteria including high potential for cashew production, less frost problem, high incidence of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition and also vulnerability to environmental degradation.
Kalabo district is one of the ten districts implementing the cashew project with a target of 6,200 farmers including women and youths. The growing of cashew is one which the local people have never taken seriously because of several reasons such as not knowing the actual value of the cashew nuts and market for the same. This led to the already existing trees not being taken care of by the people and being cut down anyhow.
This project was started with sensitization of the local people on the value of the crop and the advantages of taking up cashew growing. These sensitization meetings included the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) through the village headmen, chiefs and induna’s as they are the custodians of land. They were fully involved in order to make them understand the aim and benefits of the project in relation to giving out land to the people for higher production of the crop.
It is out of these sensitization meetings that the local people started accepting the project and then taking up cashew growing. This has resulted in farmers of all ages embracing the project by accessing the cashew seeds and seedlings in the hope of improving their livelihood through income to be generated through the cashew value chain.
Mr David Katuya of Kandumba village in Kanchumwa agricultural camp is one of the people growing cashew in Kalabo. He is 59 years old and has planted 150 grafted cashew seedlings in 3 separate fields around the village where he resides. Mr Katuya revealed that he has always taken good care of the already existing cashew trees around his house as he has always enjoyed the fruits and the roasted nuts. He decided to register himself as a cashew farmer to the Ministry of Agriculture which resulted in him benefitting from the seeds and seedlings that they were being distributed at the time.
Mr David Katuya of Kandumba village at his cashew field and nursery.
He however disclosed that he had never known the actual value of the cashew nuts till the time he attended sensitization meetings under the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project through the ministry. He planted the seedlings according to specifications and has successfully seen the growth of all the 150 trees in his fields. He has been following the aftercare procedures he learnt of weeding, mulching and watering.
“All I knew about cashew is just eating the nuts and fruits, which I have always enjoyed. I actually never knew that there is an international market for cashew nuts. Its because of what I have been told now about cashew that has encouraged me take up cashew growing. And I want to be assisted with funds to expand my fields’’ said Mr David Katuya.
Mr Katuya has fully taken up growing cashew with the hope of improving his livelihood from the income he will generate once he starts harvesting from the trees at maturity stage. This is what has urged him to request for more seedlings in order to acquire more land for expansion of his cashew fields.
Therefore, Mr Katuya again benefitted 800 more cashew seeds from the Ministry of Agriculture that were distributed last rain season, but due to the droughts he did not plant them. He instead decided to come up with a nursery for easy watering so that he plants them this 2019/2020 rain season. He made the nursery right in his yard according to the lessons undertaken with the agricultural extension staff on how a cashew nursery should be. His seeds have germinated so well into cashew seedlings ready for planting.
Mr Kangwanda Mapulanga of Musasa village in Ufufu area is another successful cashew farmer in Kalabo district. At the age of 72 with only his wife living with him, he has managed to grow 202 cashew trees on a 1.5 hectares piece of land. Mr Mapulanga has equally taken up cashew growing after attending sensitization meetings and acquiring all the knowledge that he needed on the benefits of cashew after harvesting.
Mr and Mrs Mapulanga of Ufufu in their cashew field.
‘’Had it not been for this project, I would not have known that cashew is sold on the market and that it fetches a good price. I thank the government for educating us on that. As you can see that all our children are grown and are living in towns. They can’t afford everything that we need. So we always wake up very early in the morning with my wife to water our cashew trees for a better tomorrow” said Mr Mapulanga.
Mr Tauzeni Mutelo is another cashew farmer of Imilangu area in Kalabo district. He is 64 years old and out of the 100 cashew seedlings that he benefitted from the Ministry of Agriculture, 98 cashew trees have survived the drought. He planted them on a 1 hectare piece of land. He equally disclosed that watering his cashew trees is a challenge as there is no nearby water source.
The above farmers have their cashew seedlings growing very well and are working hand in hand with the extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture. The camp extension officers are always visiting them and monitoring the growth of the seedlings, in case of tree infections they are assisted with chemicals active in hexaconazole and chylothrine to spray on them.
However, the main challenge that these farmers are facing is lack of irrigation equipments, as it is well known that an efficient water distribution system is important for surface irrigation. This is the main challenge to all cashew farmers as Western province experienced drought this year. As for Mr Mapulanga who has 202 cashew seedlings planted, he waters them using a bucket together with his wife. He disclosed that he wakes up at 04 hrs to start watering the seedlings from a shallow well which he dug in a swampy area, but the well is 100 metres away from their field and at the time of the visit it was almost drying up, therefore, this will force him to go further in the plain and dig another well. The alternative source of water is the borehole at the school which is about 2.5 kilo metres away. This reveals that growing cashew requires a lot of commitment as it grows well on the upper dry land, which is fully dependant on rains or irrigation for crop growth.
Mr Tauzeni Mutelo clearing the grass around his cashew field.
Despite their ages, they have faced the challenge of watering their seedlings head on. This is because they have hope that their livelihood will improve once they start harvesting from the mature cashew trees. It is their plea to government to help them acquire irrigation equipments as they intend to expand their fields.
Moreover, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture has educated the farmers on how to access grants from the Citizenship Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC). These grants are for already existing cashew farmers to support them in expanding their already existing cashew fields, in processing their cashew nuts and fruits at maturity stage and also for marketing.
Kalabo District Agricultural Coordinator Mr John Kapela has reaffirmed government’s commitment to helping the cashew farmers in their agriculture practice from distributing of the seeds and seedlings, monitoring, up to harvesting and marketing of the crop. He also urged the farmers to work closely with the agriculture field staff as they are the extension service providers.
Government through the Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP) is committed to implementing its activities in a sustainable manner, while facilitating equitable allocation of resources to participating rural men, women and youths. As most farmers were unaware of the actual value of cashew, the government has availed enough information on the benefits of growing it. It is therefore important to have more farmers adopting new agriculture technologies and taking up cashew growing for a better tomorrow. NAIS.