Ibanda District Farmers’ Federation (IBADIF) has encouraged residents to embrace the growing of macadamia, saying it is a high-value crop with a ready market locally and abroad.
Already, the Government has prioritised the crop under the Parish Development Model (PDM) that is tipped to boost incomes of the 39% of Ugandans in abject poverty.
IBADIF secretary general Simon Muhumuza says the nuts have high demand locally and abroad, adding that once the nut tree starts production one can be able harvest for decades.
Macadamia nuts are highly sought after locally and on the world market because of their many benefits and uses, he adds. They are environmentally friendly and act as carbon sinks and hence support conservation efforts as well as sustainable and start farming practices.
“It is important, therefore, to look at macadamia since it is climate smart and resilient to extreme weather. Plant some macadamia trees in your coffee shamba to provide the much needed micro climate to survive,” Muhumuza, an agronomist and lecturer at Ibanda University, adds.
He encouraged residents to embrace the crop because it can be intercropped with other crops. Also, with the increasing climate change effects, earnings from coffee, a major cash crop for Ibanda, will drop. This, therefore, calls for adoption of crops that are tolerant to extreme weather conditions like macadamia as additional cash crops. Besides, it is a carbon sink tree and can earn farmers carbon credit money.
According to him, about 100 farmers in Ibanda, including about five pioneers of 2007, have already embraced the crop.
According to Ibanda district principal agriculture officer, Peter Abaho, macadamia is a “valuable and good crop” that farmers can tap to boost earnings in the long term. He says that a kilogramme of raw nuts costs about sh8,000 presently. Despite the good price, only about 5% of the nuts on market are produced locally, mainly in the Teso region “because of the warm environment”.
“There is still a huge opportunity for local farmers as most of the macadamia nuts in local supermarkets are imported into the country from India,” says Abaho.
He added that the nut tree tolerates dry environments and it is also a leguminous kind of tree that fixes nitrogen in the soil.
The official, however, noted that though macadamia is one of the priority crops under PDM, Ibanda district is currently promoting only four enterprises – coffee, vanilla, hass avocado and dairy. But we can always support macadamia farmers on the agronomy part of it, he adds.
Recommended for agro-forestry
In agro-forestry farming systems, there is what they call multipurpose trees on farm. This is where a farmer deliberately leaves or plants certain tree species in the main crop or field to provide shade, poles, or for medicinal values, and food or fodder. They can also act as windbreakers, nutrients retrievers, ornamental value, as well as help in soil and water conservation, pollination, apiary, and, most recently as a form of climate smart agriculture to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The macadamia tree nuts help to achieve most of the above, says Muhumuza.
“I encourage farmers to embrace macadamia growing because it does almost all these with minimum disturbance. In coffee plantations, it provides good shade, while in dairy farm it will protect the pastures in the dry season, and will act as a wind breaker when planted along the land boundaries,” he adds.
Access to seedlings one the key challenges with one seedling going for sh15,000 each. The other challenge is lack of knowledge about the crop, its benefits and immense opportunities presents.
Also, the fact that there no macadamia seedbed operator makes things hard those interested in the crop.
The size of the hole should be two by two feet, while spacing is 10 metres by seven metres, or seven metres by seven, depending on other types of crops in the area and agronomic practices used. To plant macadamia in a coffee plantation, spacing is at 10 by10 metres to allow enough space for pruning and picking the cherries.
As an orchard crop, the macadamia needs rich well-drained soil and 130cm of rain annually, according to Muhumuza. It can grow in many parts in Ibanda, including hill but not in wetlands, he adds. An acre accommodates up to 244 macadamia trees.
The crop is also not easily affected by pests and diseases, and is not eaten by animals.
For harvesting, the nuts will fall when they are mature and the farmer will just come to pick them.