By Herbert Musoke and Joshua Kato
“I want a pack of cashew nuts,” a lady in one of the leading super markets says. She is led to a shelf where she is heard exclaiming. “This is too expensive. This is too small for sh12,000,” she says. The attendant nods her head, before saying. “But this is one of the cheapest for 75grams,” she said. The roasted nut was an import from Tanzania.
Cashew nuts growing was one of the enterprises that raised a lot of interest during the 2023 Harvest Money expo.
Big potential in dry areas
According to experts, the tree nut can be grown in semi- arid areas, for example, the cattle corridor. This stretches from the southwest to the northeast of Uganda covering about 40% of the country’s land with one of the country’s most fragile ecosystems.
As farmers in these areas are scratching their heads to find answers on how to survive in this natural dry environment, cashew nut trees could be the answer they are seeking.
Patrick Joseph Okilan, an expert with National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and a cashew farmer, explains that the cattle corridor in Uganda with semi-arid conditions are conducive for cashew nut production just like many parts in Tanzania which is East Africa’s biggest producer of this crop to change the communities.
“Over reliance on cattle as an income earner with milk and beef production fluctuations due to lack of rains and pastures means that cashew nuts, is the answer to the outcry for survival,” he explains.
The unpredictable rainfall and scarcity of water calls for solutions not lamentation. Tanzania is not gifted with water bodies like in Uganda, but cashew nut contributes 10%-15% of its foreign exchange earning annually.
Therefore, this is a new strategic crop for food consumption, encouraging long-term sustainability as it lasts for over 100 years.
Across the cattle corridor in Uganda, there are several farmers growing cashew nuts already, especially in Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Kiryandongo and Nwoya districts.