Crops Development PS Kello Harsama has directed the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization (KALRO) to establish cashew nut nurseries in Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) counties for economic diversification. PS Harsama launched four new varieties of cashew nuts that are drought tolerant, disease resistant, and only takes one and half years to mature as opposed to the traditional varieties that took five years. The new varieties that are expected to increase farmers’ earnings due to their short maturity have been named as Kkrorosho75, Kkorosho 81, Kkrosho 82, and Kkrosho 100. The PS termed the development of the varieties ‘a big breakthrough in the agriculture sector’ since farmers’ plant, harvest, and sell within a short duration. The PS has met and encouraged farmers and leaders from ASAL counties to grow cashew nuts crop as an alternative source of income. ‘I have directed KALRO to start nurseries in other parts of Kenya where there is drought in Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo, Samburu, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, and Baringo. I will solicit for funds for KALRO to set up nurseries in the ASAL counties so that people in those areas can start benefiting from cashew nuts because the market is available abroad and in Kenya,’ said Harsama. ‘It is a good opportunity for Kenyans who want to cultivate in arid areas. This crop does not require a lot of rain, and it is drought tolerant. People should take advantage and plant it in abundance to get profit,’ he added. The PS promised to deploy agricultural officers to impart knowledge on cashew nut farming to residents in ASAL counties. He said that pricing affected cashew nut farming and the conventional variety could also not withstand climate change. ‘Cashew nut is a crop that is commonly found in coastal counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, and Tana River and for a long time, people have benefited from the cashew nut crop,’ he said. KALRO Industrial Institute Director Finyange Pole said the new varieties have been developed over a period of time and were first released last year September. ‘These varieties are tolerant to the major cashew nut disease like powdery mildew which affects every part of the tree from the stem, leaves to the flowers which can cause up to 100 per cent loss,’ Pole noted. He said there is an increment in the prices of cashew nuts that are now sold between Sh50-70 per kilogramme unlike before when it was between Sh10 to 20. ‘Currently, the production of cashew nuts stands at 10,000 metric tonnes and the demand is about four or five times,’ Pole said urging farmers in the country to embrace the crop. ‘It only requires the initial rains for it to establish after that the plant can survive on its own with proper management like weeding, pruning and spraying against some pests and diseases,’ he explained. According to KALRO, 50,000 people depend on the cashew nut industry. In 2016, the area under cashew was estimated at 21,284 ha with a production of 11,404 Mt valued at Sh398, 799, 443.
Source: Kenya News Agency