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Togo: Farmers increase cashew production with improved seeds

Kombate Kossi walks barefoot through his vast property. Wearing a hat to ward off the sun, he holds his machete in one hand and a slingshot in the other. It’s silent, with only the sound of bird cries. Since he left school, Mr. Kossi has been farming and cultivating trees. This has allowed the 40-year-old to realize his dream. He now has a palm grove, a banana plantation, a mango plantation, and cashew trees.

For the past three years, Mr. Kossi has been trying something new: improved cashew seeds. The farmer says he tried a new variety to ensure a peaceful retirement.

His new plantation has 180 trees and covers four hectares. His young trees are already blooming and his face is hopeful. He says, “The season will be fruitful.”

Mr. Kossi started using improved seeds after participating in a training on growing cashews. He learned that cashew trees are a good source of income for rural people, boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Last year, he purchased a kilogram of seeds for 1,000 FCFA ($1.70 US). He explains: “I prepare the [polythene] bags, then I make the nurseries. The seeds germinate after 14 days, but I must wait for one month for the roots to develop before I put the plant in the ground.” Then, Mr. Kossi says, the plants must be cared for and pruned so they bear better flowers and then fruit.

Mr. KossiHe says that if the trees are well-maintained, they will start to produce fruit after two years. This is one of the advantages of improved seeds. The old trees took five years before bearing fruit that could be harvested.

The yield is also significantly higher. Mr. Kossi says that he harvested 160 kilograms of cashew nuts in the past year. Each improved tree can produce 20 kilograms of nuts for five years.

Mr. Kossi says his trees look good this year and he’s satisfied with his plantation. He hopes for good production for the next 10 years, although the trees will continue to produce fruit and nuts for more than 30 years.

The improved cashew trees produce fruit and nuts earlier in the tree’s life cycle and continue producing later than older varieties. That is why Mr. Kossi thinks these trees will guarantee him a good retirement. He says, ““I take advantage of their fruits. My children will also benefit. They guarantee my survival in my old age.”

Mawuko Komla Gozan is the president of Conseil Interpersonnel de la filière Anacarde du Togo, an organization that brings together people working at all levels of the cashew nut value chain. He says the new varieties improve both quality and quantity. He adds: “The goal is to eliminate old seeds within five years. We are today producing between 350 and 500 kilograms per hectare while other countries are at 800, 1,000, or even 1,200 kilograms. This is what we are aiming for.”

Cashew is one of the most important cash crops in Togo, after cotton, coffee, and cocoa. But, in recent years, exports by weight have exceeded coffee and cocoa.

Mr. Kossi hopes for more investment in cashew production because he recognizes their good return on investment.

Photo by Dr. Raju Kasambe