Tanzanian farmers succeed with co-operative cashew growing plan

| February 26, 2018

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This week’s Farmer story from Uganda talks about farmers who are growing bird’s eye chilies. Bird’s eye chilies are not a staple crop; rather, they are what might be called a niche crop. This week’s Script of the week talks about another niche crop, cashews.
Niche crops are specialized crops for which there is a very particular but limited market. Because the market is limited, it’s not a good idea for a farmer to grow for a niche market if many other farmers could easily enter as well. So a good niche market is one where there is some kind of a barrier to entry. For example, a crop might require a very specialized climate, or the crop may need many years to mature. It’s also not a good idea to enter a niche market that is dominated by a larger and better-financed group, because you will likely be undersold and driven out of business. Also, to enter niche markets for export crops, it is very important to have connections to larger international organizations, as this script shows.
One niche crop that some small-scale farmers can successfully grow is cashews. In Tanzania and other African countries, cashews are mainly grown by small-scale farmers on small parcels of land. In Tanzania, they are mainly grown in the coastal lowlands. Various problems, including plant diseases and worsening market conditions, have greatly hurt the Tanzanian cashew industry in recent years. But, over the last decade, cashews have made a comeback in Tanzania.
Cashews grow best in relatively flat areas that are less than 1,000 metres above sea level. They do best in relatively fertile soils, and they need rain for five to seven months of the year, with the rains followed by dry sunny days. Cashew trees do best when the temperature is between 24 and 28 degrees. They love light and need to be widely spaced. They need low humidity during the dry season or diseases will develop. If the land in your broadcast area has these conditions, cashews may grow well there. But, as the script tells you, there are other things that can help growers to make a profit by growing cashews, including belonging to an effective farmers’ group, following best management practices, and collaborating with other players in the cashew industry, including processors.
This script tells of a successful collaboration between a cashew farmers’ group in southern Tanzania, an international NGO, and a cashew processor. Working together with the whole supply chain—from farmer to processor—has brought the farmers improved incomes, greater security, and hope for the future.