BENEDICT TEMBO, Mongu
CHAMA Mwila, the principal at Namushakende Farmer Training Institute on the outskirts of Mongu, Western Province, is upbeat about the prospective benefits of the Zambia
Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP).
Namushakende Farmer Training Institute is one of the beneficiaries of the CIDP.
Mr Mwila had probably given up hope about his institution ever getting a facelift.
One of the country’s oldest farmer training centres, Namushakende has seen its days.
Even the road leading to this knowledge centre is in a bad shape.
However, this narrative is on the verge of changing for the better, thanks to the CIDP.
Under the CIDP, which aims to revive the cashew subsector, Namushakende will be spruced up to its attractive state as a learning and cashew seedling production centre
Government has borrowed US$45 million from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to alleviate poverty in Western Province.
About 60,000 farmers in 10 of the 16 districts will participate in the five-year CIDP project expected to contribute to poverty reduction and improved household income through improved cashew production.
The CIDP is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, and Namushakende will be the agent for coming up with improved cashew varieties through research.
“We are a centre for seedling production. We are also a centre for training for Ministry of Agriculture and farmers,” Mr Mwila said.
In line with training, the AfDB will rehabilitate the buildings, which include the housing units.
The bank will also upgrade the 1.3km road from the Mongu-Senanga turn-off up to Namushakende from sand to an all-weather gravel road so that it is easily accessible.
The AfDB will extend the road by a further 700 metres to bring the total length to 2km.
Mr Mwila said it will make it easier for farmers to be taking cashew seedlings.
“To ease the raising of seedlings, the AfDB will put up a borehole at the institute with a submersible pump so that there is a steady flow of water,” Mr Mwila said.
Apart from that, the AfDB has offered to procure a generator set as a backup in an event that there is power outage.
“They (AfDB) have given us four houses to increase the residential units,” Mr Mwila said.
Currently, the farm institute has five houses against a staff establishment of 11 officers.
The housing units and other buildings at Namushakende farmer institute, which has been in existence for 1975, are dilapidated due to lack of rehabilitation.
Other challenges for the institute include a hand-to-mouth budget; the institute receives between K1,000.00 and K2,000.00/quarterly but mostly survives on income-generation activities or revolving funds.
Transport is another major challenge; the institute is 23km from Mongu, and with all activities at the institute, there has been no vehicle to ease the work.
Mr Mwila said the institute will maximise its seedling production so that it sells the surplus to the private sector.
“The seedlings we are raising will also help to boost the revenue of the institute,” he said.
Namushakende Farmer Training Institute has submitted a budget of K3.2 million to the CIDP.
The institute has been training people in cashew grafting and the coming of the CIDP is a case of expectation meeting opportunity. The 20 grafters have since graduated into nursery assistants.
“We have been training people (20) who have been doing grafting, they are now working as nursery assistants. When we begin grafting, we shall train more,” Mr Mwila said.
The institute has so far grafted 52,000 cashew trees.
“The varieties we been grafting are Brazilian and Mozambican dwarfs. We have a target, by December, we should have 800,000 seedlings grafted,” he said.
CIDP co-ordinator Charles Chileya said cashew was being grown in Western Province before but it declined in the post-privatisation era.
“Cashew has been here since 1940 when it was brought by the Portuguese, The cashew company which processed the crop was closed,” Mr Chileya said.
He said the CIDP is trying to ride on the experience of cash production and come up with a better strategy.
The project will be implemented in 10 of the 16 districts in the province.
These are Kalabo, Limulunga, Lukulu, Nalolo, Shangombo, Sesheke, Senanga, Sikongo, Sioma and Mongu.
Justification for choosing the nine districts includes high potential for cashew production, less frost problems and high incidences of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition.
The districts are also vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change.
“The 10 districts are the cashew hub. In today’s economics, there is no crop as expensive as cashew. Cashew is at K20 per kg that translates into K1,000 per 50kg bag while coffee is less than 400 dollars per tonne and rice is K150 for 50kg,” Mr Chileya said.
When processed, cashew fetches at K150 per kg.
A 50 grammes bag is selling K103 in some Zambian supermarkets.
“Cashew for us is our new copper for Zambia that everybody should support us,” Mr Chileya said.
The CIDP will create about 6,000 full-time jobs (3,000 women and 1,000 youths) along the cashew value chain from production, processing to marketing.
At full maturity of the cashew trees, each farming household (with 1hectare) will have annual income of K2,223 (about US$429).
Government prioritised women and youth empowerment in the CIDP.
“Out of the 60,000 smallholder farmers who will benefit, 30,000 must be women-headed households, and 7,000 must be youths. The rest will be men,” Mr Chileya said.
Each household will plant one hectare of 100 cashew trees.
The project’s dual objective is to revive the cashew subsector and reduce poverty as well as enhance food security at household level.