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22nd of July 2018

Economy



Governor Kingi gets donor aid in bid to revive nuts industry

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (left) and Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba sample a cashew nut seedling at the Ten Senses nursery

KILIFI, KENYA: Kilifi county government has embarked on an ambitious multi-million-shilling project that will see farmers plant more than two million new hybrid cashew nut plants in the next two years.

The project to revive cashew nut farming by planting up to five million high-yielding seeds will also rope in Kwale County.

Governor Amason Kingi said this was aimed at eradicating poverty and creating jobs for youths.

The five-year project is supported by Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, Farm Africa and Ten Senses.

Samar Ngama, a farmer in Kibaoni village in Kilifi County, is optimistic of reaping cash from the crop.

A deal between the Kilifi county government and development partners will see farmers benefit from one million free cashew nuts seedlings this year.

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Under the project, the county government will provide free new hybrid seedlings and offer farmers extension services.

The new variety of the crop takes only two years to mature.

“Initially, we had partnered with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) to provide farmers at Mtwapa with free cashew nuts seedlings that take two years to mature. This new move will embolden us even further,” said Mr Mr Kingi.

The governor noted that farmers were initially resistant to the initiative owing to the neglect of the crop by the national government.

“We have assured them that the county government will address their plight,” he said.

Kingi is hopeful that Monday’s launch of the drive is the first step towards commercialising farming of the crop in the county 30 years after the industry collapsed.

“Success of this project will make farming an attractive business and a career for young people,” said the ambassadors of Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland in a joint statement during the launch.

The four countries, collectively known as the Visegrad Group or V4, are funding the project through development partners.

Kingi said the crop would offer residents a stable source of income.

The governor urged the national government to recognise and list crops grown at the Coast in the category of cash crops so that they can be protected and financed by the exchequer.

“On the list of cash crops in Kenya there is no crop from the Coast region in that category and that is part of the historical injustices we want addressed,” he said.

He added: “The collapse of the cashew nut industry and other agricultural industries have been used by politicians to seek votes during every electioneering period.”

He called on members of the National Assembly to revisit the Mumba tax force committee report on the collapse of the Kenya Cashew Nut Company in 1990’s and make it public.

The governor said the county government embarked on plans to revive the cashew nut industry in 2013 and they were waiting for development partners.

Kingi thanked the governments of Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary for teaming up to promote the revival of the crop adding that his government will spend more than Sh50 million to purchase and distribute cashew nut seedlings and educate farmers on agri-business.

He said once the company was operational, farmers would sell their produce directly at the factory and payment would be on the spot via M-Pesa.

“This is going to be our gold and you are our testimony that the old elites in Kilifi went to school in the 80s and before thanks to cashew nut proceeds,” he said.

Ten Senses Managing Director Frank Omondi said the €2 million (Sh235 million) five-year programme targeted 15,000 outgrowers in Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale.

He noted that the county governments would take over as the firm focused on constructing a processing factory, which was expected to be completed by 2019.

“The seedlings we are giving out are different from the ones that were used before that yielded only 3kg of cashew nuts. The new variety will produce 20kg per tree,” said Mr Omondi.

Stefano Dejak, the Ambassador of the European Union, said they were keen on the project as there was a huge market for cashew nuts in their member states.

“Nearly 20 per cent of the Kenyan produce is consumed in Europe and the demand keeps growing and we are here today to revive the sector,” he said.

 

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