Coast governors are banking on revival of the cashew nut industry to improve the livelihoods of 350,000 farmer households in Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Lamu, Taita-Taveta and Mombasa counties.
The county bosses assured the residents that they will transform the coastal economy by increasing the crop's production to more than 300,000 metric tonnes worth Sh40 billion annually by 2030.
"We will increase cashew-nut production by empowering smallholder farmers in the region. The move is aimed at reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of 350,000 households in the region. It will further transform the rural economy in the region," said the governors.
The initiative involves equipping smallholder farmers with the knowledge and skills required to transition from subsistence farming to semi-commercialisation.
Through the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP), the governors led by Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Dhadho Godhana (Tana River) and Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) announced a partnership with Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF) Chairman, Mr Mahesh Patel, to revive the dormant cashew nut value chain.
"The collaboration seeks to empower smallholder farmers by reviving the dormant cashew value chain in the Kenyan Coast region. Dubbed Koroshi ni Maisha project, the initiative aims at reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of farmer households," the governors said in a statement.
The county bosses noted the significant socio-economic disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the cash crop can boost the region's economy.
"That is why we resolved to strengthen the regional Economic Bloc and have joint regional programmes, resource mobilisation and investments," they added after receiving a cashewnut industry revival proposal from Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF).
Recently, Dr Wilfred Marube, the chief executive officer, Kenya Exports Promotion and Branding Agency said Coast has huge export potential for cashew nuts.
"In 2019, cashew-nut exports from Kenya to the US, Egypt and Canada were worth about Sh140 million," said Dr Marube.
Africa produces 60 per cent of the world's raw cashew nuts.
Cashew nuts used to be the main source of livelihood in the coast region. However, the sector experienced a steady decline over the past two decades.
The industry suffered from a multitude of challenges affecting the quantity and quality of nuts needed for processing.
The government highlighted the major challenges facing the cashew sub-sector including old age of orchards, coupled with poor tree husbandry, inadequate extension staff, lack of specialist cashew agronomists, inadequate developmental research, insufficient knowledge, technology and information transfer, lack of certified planting materials and high costs of farm inputs.