On a sunny April day, Akouété Apedo walks through his cashew plantation. The harvest season, which runs from February to March, is over. Mr. Apedo operates a three-hectare family cashew plantation in Elavagnon, in the prefecture of Est Mono, about 30 kilometres from Anié in southern Togo.
He circles each tree with a pruner, lifting the branches to be pruned and cutting them one after another. This technique creates good aeration for the trees. Mr. Apedo prunes his trees to ensure good production even when rainfall is poor.
The decrease in rainfall and the aging of trees has a negative impact on cashew yields. Mr. Apedo says, “In previous years, I had production of 700 kilograms per hectare. But this year I ended up with 400 kilograms per hectare.”
Cashew trees need moderate amounts of rain during the rainy season and heat in the dry season. If rainfall is normal, the trees store water and redistribute it when they flower. Insufficient rain and dry winds lead to poor production.
Aliou Sakibou is the director of ICAT, the institute for technical support. He says the cashew tree prefers rains until October, followed by heat in November, the start of flowering.
But with the recent fluctuations in rainfall and heat, farmers are unsure of good yields. Flowers may dry up, especially when it rains too early and production stops, or when there is not enough rain and a severe drought.
The age of trees is another crucial problem. Cashew trees need light to produce well. Pruning branches from older trees with many branches allows other parts of the tree to receive more light and better air circulation.
Mr. Sakibou adds: “The solution is to cut down some trees to allow others to grow and produce properly. To be able to cut them, you have to have chainsaws because they are big trunks. You can also cut the branches of certain trees when they touch the ground. ”
Harmattan, the strong, dry wind that blows in December and January, is also an enemy of the cashew tree. Mr. Apedo explains, “When the harmattan is too dry, the flowers dry up and the nuts fall off.” Unfortunately, he can do nothing against this enemy. He declares, “I am at the mercy of the climate.”
Loumonvi Gnami owns eight-and-a-half hectares in Tchikita, Est Mono. He agrees with Mr. Apedo about the harmattan, adding: “The harmattan has something to do with the poor production of cashew nuts. The flowers of the trees, which bear fruit, dry out, which influences the quantity. Even if the seeds are already formed, they dry out in the harmattan period.”
Mr. Gnami has adopted new cashew varieties, and says they produce well after just 18 months. He explains, “I tried the new strain in August 2019. Last season, the plants produced well on half a hectare.”
These farmers are hoping that Improved seeds and pruning can help them to get good yields despite the changing climate.
This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.