Handeni — At a time the government is streamlining the crisis-ridden cashew nuts industry, efforts are underway to introduce the crop as a dependable source of cash for smallholder farmers is set to begin in Handeni district, Tanga region.
Some 600,000 cashew seedlings have been purchased from the Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute in Mtwara region for distribution to the farmers.
Farmers who wanted to grow the crop and want to be supplied have been urged to register with the ward and village offices so that they can be reached out.
"The seedlings will be supplied free of charge", said the district executive officer William Makufwe, noting that those who need the trees have to indicate the size of their farms.
According to the official, the district council has spent a total of Sh. 28 million to purchase and ferry the young cashew trees from Mtwara to Handeni.
Farmers keen on cashew nuts cultivation will have to fill a special form and failure to tend the crop properly would see them paying Sh. 5000 as a fine for each destroyed tree.
Mr Makufwe distribution of cashew seedlings would start on February 15th next year at all ward offices.
The district agricultural and irrigation officer Yibarila Chiza said the farmers will have to be sensitized enough on the cultivation of cashew nuts, which is largely new to the area
Introduction of commercial cultivation of cashew nuts in Handeni follows recent efforts to promote cassava as a cash crop to increase the economic fortunes of people here.
Maize, a staple food crop in the area, occasionally serves as a source of cash for the small holder farmers in the district if there are sufficient rains.
Handeni, which is prone to drought unlike other districts in the region, has had no reliable cash crop although there had been efforts last year to revive cultivation of cotton.
Sisal, a cash crop which made Tanga region famous all over the world, was cultivated mainly by the commercial farmers in the past but dropped after the settler farmers left.
Agricultural experts say Handeni was suitable for the production of cashew nuts because it has suitable soils like those of other coastal regions where the crop thrives well notably Coast, Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma.