Compiled By Markson Omagor
The first planting season is again around the corner and many Ugandan farmers are contemplating what is best for them for optimum results.
Agriculture employing over 80% Ugandans directly and indirectly is largely seen as unprofitable; often affected by vagaries of weather, pests and unstable market prices.
To many ordinary Ugandans therefore, Agriculture only remains a source of food for home consumption. For this reason, majority of Ugandans have remained and will continue being subsistence farmers unless government comes up with viable and profitable means of carrying out agricultural activities.
This writer opines that for farmers in Eastern Uganda, cashew nut growing is the way to go and this is why:
First and foremost most parts of Eastern and especially North Eastern Uganda have tropical weather with long spells of dry seasons. Such weather is not appropriate for perennial and economically profitable crops such as coffee and bananas.
Tropical weather is good for fruit growing; and this is where cashew nut comes in handy.
The cashew tree is cultivated in the tropics between 25°N and 25°S, and is well-adapted to hot lowland areas with a pronounced dry season, where the mango and tamarind trees also thrive. Now it is common knowledge that both mangos and tamarind do very well in Teso for instance.
Cashew nut is a simple cash crop to take care of, with the advantage that it thrives even in the very hostile climates and grow best in sandy soils. Though not fertile, the trees will still do fine without additional attention and costs associated with use of fertilisers. All it demands of farmers is pruning to ensure that the yields do not drop.
Unlike some cash crops, whose market has eluded farmers, cashew nuts are highly marketable because of its wider uses. In addition to being a delicacy, it is has medicinal properties in the other parts like leaves and bark which can be used for health benefits.
The products are used in industries. Cashew nut growing in Uganda may be an unknown venture to many farmers but it is worth exploring with no competition to worry about.
Cashew trees prefer tropical climate with high and constant temperature and with enough sunlight for high yields. Dry spells do not affect the cashew as a perennial crop, as they do with other annual crops.
In this period of climate change, where the unreliability of rainfall is increasing, the yields from cashew contributes to the resilience of the farming system in most of the zones in Uganda and especially North Eastern Uganda.
Experts argue that rural people in Northern and Eastern Uganda face food insecurity therefore integration of the cashew nut tree as a perennial cash crop seems to be an opportunity to increase farmer incomes.
Cashew is a plant which can be harvested continuously as long as good agronomy practices are maintained meaning that it is a crop that can maintain a farmer for over 30 years.
Besides cashew trees are very good for bee keeping also known as Apiary. The trees provide shelter for the bee hives while the cashew flowers are good for the bees. Bees benefit from the flower nectar but at the same time help in pollinating the cashew fruits.
This is also a generation that must do all it takes to avert the negative effects of climatic change. Tree planting is one of the most hyped ways of averting what many have called ‘the world’s biggest challenge’. But then trees should not be planted just because they are trees; Cashew trees not only bring money every year, they also contribute towards arresting climatic change.
Moreover, most trees especially the timber variety mature after 15 years and this is when a farmer reaps benefits. Cashews give a farmer benefits only three years from planting.
Farmers can also inter-crop it with any crop, such as maize, beans, groundnuts and other vegetables through the growth period. The implication is that through the first 3 years, farmers can have other crops grown together with the cashews. If you intend to inter-crop then you should plant the seeds at 12cm by 12cm spacing.
Coffee farmers in other parts of Uganda have benefited from its perennial nature, so will Teso, Karamoja, Lango, Acholi and other Northern regions benefit from cashews.