Tanzanian farmers succeed with co-operative cashew growing plan

    | April 19, 2010

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    Our top news story of the week notes that TechnoServe, an American NGO, is taking part in an initiative to connect 50,000 small-scale fruit farmers to beverage giant Coca Cola. TechnoServe will train the fruit farmers to improve crop quality and quantity and organize farmer groups, as well as facilitate access to credit.

    TechnoServe has supported similar partnerships between corporations and farmers who grow bananas, cashews, cocoa, and coffee in other parts of Africa. This week’s script highlights a group of small-scale farmers in southern Tanzania who supply cashews to a processor. Read on to learn how participating has helped the farmers earn higher, more secure incomes.

    You may also read this script online at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/80-5script_en.asp.


    Notes to Broadcaster:

    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 really 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 which 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 will show.

    One niche crop which some small-scale farmers can successfully grow is cashews. In Tanzania and other African countries, cashews are mainly grown by small 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 which are less than 1000 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 to 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 which 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 parts of the cashew industry, including processors.

    The following script tells of a successful collaboration between a cashew farmers’ group in southern Tanzania, an international NGO and a cashew processor. While the collaboration is still in its early years, working together with the whole ‘supply chain’ – from farmer to processor – has brought the farmers improved incomes, greater security, and hope for the future.


    Enzi: male farmer
    Hasani: male farmer
    Kapuki: female farmer

    Sounds of market – voices, music, occasional sounds of animals. Fade under narrator.

    Narrator: Good morning (afternoon, evening). Today you will hear a short drama about a group of small-scale cashew farmers in southern Tanzania. This group of 100 farmers have successfully collaborated with Tanzanian cashew processors, with help from TechnoServe, an international non-profit organization working in Tanzania, and the national government. Their scheme has worked very well in its first year and the group is growing.

    Enzi’s voice: (off mic) Hasani!

    Narrator: Wait… I think I hear one of the farmers now… Let’s listen.

    Fade up sounds of market.

    Enzi: (calling loudly off mic) Hello, Hasani. (Pause as they approach each other) (On mic) I haven’t seen you for a long time. You look well.

    Hasani: (coming on mic) God has been good to me. (On mic) And you?

    Enzi: (quickly and unconvincingly) Oh, the same. And I know what you are going to ask me. The answer is no – my cashews did not make me rich this year. I am thinking of giving up farming and moving to town.

    Hasani: Enzi, you should have joined our farmers’ business group. We’ve had the best year ever with cashews.

    Enzi: (surprised) But it’s been so dry. And then so wet! How have you managed?

    Hasani: With a lot of help from my friends! (Excited) We have a good contract with a processor and we were trained on how best to grow cashews and…

    Enzi: (laughing and interrupting) Wait, Hasani. You better start from the beginning. I can see that this is a long story.

    Hasani: Just a minute, Enzi… (calling to someone in the distance) Kapuki! Come, I want you to meet someone. (More quietly, to Enzi) Kapuki is also in our farmers’ business group.

    Kapuki: (coming on mic) Good morning, Hasani, we missed you last night at the group meeting.

    Hasani: Yes, my youngest daughter was ill and I stayed home to help take care of her. Kapuki, this is my old friend, Enzi. Enzi, this is Kapuki.

    Both: Hello.

    Hasani: Enzi wants to know all about our group. (Pause) Well, Enzi, you know we started out five years ago as a simple farmers group, about ten of us. Then, two years ago, we were contacted by an organization called TechnoServe. They wanted to know if we were interested in growing for a processor. They said that they would provide us special training if we would sell our nuts to the processor.

    Enzi: What kind of training?

    Hasani: Oh, many kinds. They have trained us on how to prepare land, how to establish and manage nurseries, how to graft the trees, how to make sure that the cashews are stored correctly, how to use pest management products, how to determine raw nut quality – many things! They also help us learn about marketing.

    Enzi: (sceptical) And were you successful this year?

    Hasani: This year more than half of my crop qualified for a premium price.

    Kapuki: Well, I can do better than that, Hasani. My entire crop received the premium price!

    Enzi: But how do you get a premium price?

    Kapuki: If our cashews are dried to less than eight and one half percent moisture, we receive three and one half percent more than the regular market price.

    Enzi: Who gives you the premium?

    Hasani: As I said, our group sells all its nuts to one processor. The group elected Kapuki as one of the two growers who work directly with the processor, so she can tell you more about that.

    Kapuki: Yes, two of us were chosen to represent the group and meet with the processor. I should say that there are now 100 cashew growers in our group. So the two representatives meet with the processor and estimate the size of the entire cashew harvest for the group. Then we decide on a day and a place for the processor to buy the whole crop.

    Enzi: (sceptical) The whole crop?

    Kapuki: Yes, the whole crop. We collect all of our nuts – including the mature ones that have fallen naturally off the trees – and store them in sisal or jute bags to keep them ventilated. On the agreed day, the group members take their nuts to the designated place. The processor gives us the money for the crop and takes the nuts to the warehouse. The two of us go with the crop to the processor’s warehouse. We stay at the warehouse while the processor checks the moisture content of the nuts, we verify it, and the processor determines how much of the crop will receive the premium. TechnoServe is also at the warehouse to help verify the moisture content.

    Enzi: The processor is getting a very good deal, I think. He has a guaranteed crop, and with all the training you’re getting, he must be getting a very good product.

    Kapuki: Wait, Enzi, there’s more. The processor doesn’t just buy all our nuts. In exchange for our agreement to sell only to one processor, the processor provides us with fungicides and other inputs at the beginning of the season.

    Enzi: At the beginning of the season?

    Kapuki: Yes. We pay the processor back after we are paid for the crop.

    Enzi: You are given cashew inputs at the beginning of the season? Are you serious?

    Kapuki: Absolutely.

    Enzi: (complaining) That is always my problem when I grow cashews. By the time I have money to pay for all the inputs I need, it’s too late to use them. (In a more serious, business-like voice, but still sceptical) But has your income increased since joining this group? Surely there must be some hidden charges. This organization wouldn’t train you if there was nothing in it for them.

    Kapuki: TechnoServe is funded by an international development agency which tries to help small growers like us. If we’re successful, they consider their project successful.

    Enzi: But what happens when the government fixes the price of cashew nuts too low again?

    Hasani: I know this has been a problem in the past, Enzi, and not just in this country. But the cashew processors in Tanzania have signed what is called a memorandum of understanding with the national government. They are confident that the government will do what is needed to support the cashew industry, including the growers. Based on that confidence, the processor is willing to invest money in small farmers’ crops. So our situation is much better than before.

    Kapuki: To answer your question about income, Enzi, yes, my income has grown. The yields of the 100 farmers in our group have increased by 20-30% and we are getting premium prices for much of it. We are guaranteed to receive market price for our nuts, plus any premium we earn. So it’s a good deal for us.

    Enzi: Are you saying that all farmers in your group did better this year?

    Hasani: Well, there was one group in Liwale which didn’t produce many nuts because of insufficient rainfall. But the rest of us did very well.

    Enzi: Do you think that you’re doing well because of the training?

    Hasani: That’s one big part, Enzi. But another thing is that, when a group of 100 farmers is committed and cooperates and works together, great things can happen, especially when we’re working together with other parts of the cashew industry.

    Kapuki: Yes, we can’t overestimate the benefits of working with the processors and their agreement to provide us with inputs early in the season and on credit. When everyone is committed to work together and everyone has confidence that cooperation will lead to profit, things go more smoothly.

    Enzi: And the premium price doesn’t hurt either, right?

    Hasani: Absolutely. (Pause) So, Enzi, do you want to join?

    Enzi: (after a moment’s silence and sheepishly) Would you take me?

    Kapuki: (in a teasing voice) Hmmm… what do you think, Hasani? Can he cooperate with others? We’ll have to think about it…

    Hasani: (playing along) Yes, perhaps we should think about it for a month or two and…

    Enzi: (interrupting, losing his sheepishness and speaking directly) Okay, Hasani, let me say it differently. I would like to join the group and I can promise to cooperate. (After a pause and finding his business-like voice again) But I need more information!

    Hasani: (laughing) Of course, my friend, of course. We’ll tell you all you need to know.

    Kapuki: Welcome to the group, Enzi!

    Enzi: Thank you. (To Hasani, more softly) Thank you, my friend.

    Hasani: You are very welcome. Let’s all get something to eat to celebrate our new member, okay?

    Both: Yes!

    Sounds of marketplace fade up for 5 seconds, then out.

    Narrator: Thank you for listening to our program today. I hope it gave you some good ideas and made you think. Perhaps you too could be involved in a successful group such as this. What would you need to do to make it happen? Think about it. Smart cooperation and being honest and trustworthy with processors can lead to better livelihoods and reduce poverty. (Pause) This is (name of narrator), saying good-bye until next week.


    Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, managing editor, Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, based on correspondence with David Williams, Regional Coordinator, African Cashew Development Programme, TechnoServe, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and other TechnoServe staff.
    Reviewed by: Juma R. Chijinga, Team Leader, African Cashew Development Programme, TechnoServe Tanzania, Mtwara, Tanzania.