ELIZABETH CHATUVELA, Mongu
AT 54, Brenda Akatama Mwanamwalye still has the vigor to contribute to the cashew industry.
Her house in Mongu’s Kambule street is bustling with people trooping in and out buying cashew seedlings or processed nuts.
Her passion and commitment towards the industry is what has made the cashew industry in Western Province to be revived when she interacted with President Lungu in 2015 at the Provincial Women and Gender Expo held in Lusaka.
Brenda won first prize at the expo that saw her sell her 30 seedlings to President Edgar Lungu.
She says the President was inspired with what she was exhibiting and promised to revive the cashew industry in the province.
True to his words, Government sourced the money from the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 2016, and the project was launched by then Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya, with 10 of the 16 districts in the province involved in the US$55,4 million Cashew Infrastructure Development (CIDP).
The districts that are implementing the project which is in its third of the five –year period include Mongu, Limulunga, Sikongo, Senanga, Sioma, Shangombo, Sikongo, Lukulu, Kalabo and Mitete.
The project is targeting 60,000 households, of which 50 percent are female headed households.
Brenda, who is involved in the production and processing of cashew started planting the crop in 2012 with only 5 hectares and today, she boasts of four fields in Nambwata (80 hectares), Sefula (15 hectares), Namushakende (40 hectares) and Makapaela which has the biggest plantation of 100 hectares.
She jointly owns the plantation with her husband Gorebrowne Kashumba, one of the first people to own cashew plantations in the province.
Brenda says she was inspired to invest in the industry at the time she worked as an office assistant under the Cashew Growers Association (CGA).
“I used to go in the cashew fields with the farmers at the time I was working for CGA and I saw the benefits of this crop. It is from there I decided to go into production as my salary was not good at the time, and since then, I cannot complain of money because a cashew tree is a lifetime investment. I have managed to build a house and buy a car through this same project,” she says.
Brenda explains that she managed to collect seven tonnes of cashew in 2015, and in the 2016 and 2017 season, the yields increased to 15 tonnes.
She says she started harvesting three years after planting her first tree, as she planted the Brazilian dwarf variety, which she says is favourable with the soil in Western Province.
She is this year expected to harvest about 200 kg of
Brenda revives cashew nut growingcashew.
Apart from the old trees that are giving her nuts, Brenda has taken advantage of the CIDP project to supply seedlings.
She says she supplied the Ministry of Agriculture with 40,000 grafted Brazilian seedlings and is hoping that she will be one of the people who will be listed to supply the project, even this year.
She also supplied the project with 100,000 scions, which were given out to the implementing districts.
“We have done the bidding and still waiting for the people involved in this project to list the successful applicant. In case we are not successful, we will sell our seedlings elsewhere because I have an established market,” she says.
Brenda adds that she has previously supplied 1.5 million seedlings to farmers in Mpongwe on the Copperbelt Province, whose trees are doing well.
Her seedlings business has employed over 30 permanent workers with a few part-time grafters.
Brenda is currently processing the nuts from her home and has customers in all the ten provinces.
She says she has also received offers from Indian nationals who are interested in buying the unshelled nuts, which she says, she is unable to supply.
“ I receive a number of Indians here [home] who are interested in the unshelled nuts but I cannot supply them. I’m told the shells for the nuts are used to make jet fuel and am sure that is what they are interested in,’’ she says.
She says she plans to set up a big factory in future which will employ a number of workers that include both the young and the old people.
Brenda says she is interested to work with people of all ages as she wants to empower everyone.
She also says that she first started buying nuts for processing from a Mrs Akushanga Mukelabai, who is now one of her workers, as her field at the time was unable to meet the high demand.
Apart from processing the nuts, Brenda has plans of making cashew wine, which she says has high value.
She says she learnt some tips on how to process the wine when she travelled to Tanzania, last year.
She was among the people that Government through the CIDP sponsored a field trip to Tanzania.
Tanzania is one of the leading African producers of cashew, and is currently competing with Mozambique and Ivory Coast.
She has commended Government for reviving the project and has called on women to take full charge of the project.
Brenda also paid tribute to President Lungu’s government for offering 50 percent to women in the CIDP.
Brenda has since called on women to rise to the occasion and support the project which is meant to transform their lives.
In 2017, cashew nut export prices averaged from US$10,000 per tonne while that of copper is around US$7,000 per tonne.
ELIZABETH CHATUVELA, Mongu