• Farmers’ groups received over 1,000 macadamia seedlings, and organic fertiliser among other items.
• Nut processing firm CEO says firm intends to increase growing of macadamia seedlings from 200,000 to one million annually.
Tea and coffee farmers in Kiambu county have turned to macadamia nuts as they seek to generate high proceeds.
The farmers have already entered a pact with a Thika-based macadamia processing firm, Jungle Nuts Ltd, and expect receive monthly payments for their produce.
The farmers noted that mismanagement of the sectors in the country as well as poor returns have steadily decreased the region’s cash crop production and motivated them to grow macadamia nuts.
Despite government efforts to revive the tea and coffee sectors, which used to be Kenya’s top foreign income earners, as well as initiation of programmes to safeguard farmers from exploitation and safeguard the sectors from collapsing, the farmers said macadamia growing is their best shot at beating poverty.
They spoke at Kanyoni village in Gatundu North on September 5 during a farmers education day organised by Jungle Nuts Kilimo Foundation. Farmers’ groups received over 1,000 macadamia seedlings and organic fertiliser among other items.
The farmers welcomed the partnership terming it a shot in the arm for many of them who have been languishing in poverty due to low returns.
Leah Wanjiru, a farmers’ group leader, said tea and coffee have become less profitable due to high cost of farm inputs, lack of proper and competitive markets and infiltration of the sectors by cartels who have been enriching themselves with the farmers’ produce.
“We have suffered for decades in our farms. Despite our hard work in our farms we usually get meagre pay from our produce. We are now ready to diversify and we believe that macadamia nuts will bring us fortunes and end our financial troubles,” Wanjiru said.
Wanjiru said from the partnership with Jungle Nuts Ltd, farmers expect to get Sh200 per kilo adding that the same quantity of tea or coffee would only fetch them between Sh10 and Sh15, which is not proportionate to their input.
“Macadamia nuts payments will be made monthly unlike coffee or tea where we have to wait for a whole year to get little pay,” Wanjiru said.
James Waweru who grows coffee in Githobokoni village said farmers have realised that commercialising farming of high-yielding crops like macadamia is the only option out of poverty, noting that there are no longer huge tracts of land for large scale farming.
“I believe the narrative of farmers surviving on loans while waiting to be paid for their produce will come to end and will be changed by macadamia farming because we are assure of a ready market and timely payments,” Waweru said.
Simon Ndekei said farmers have already benefitted from training on better macadamia-growing practices like grafting of seedlings as well as high-yielding varieties and are upbeat to make more profits that will in turn improve their livelihoods.
“Having this profitable farming will end joblessness and save our youths who had turned to drugs and alcoholism due to unemployment frustrations,” he said.
Jungle Nuts Ltd founder and CEO Thika town MP Patrick Wainaina said the firm intends to increase growing of macadamia seedlings from 200,000 to one million annually.
Wainaina said the company is also targeting to have planted 10 million macadamia seedlings by 2022 through the programme aimed at empowering farmers and increasing macadamia production.
He noted that the initiative will improve Kenya’s ranking from third to the top macadamia producer globally.
“Macadamia is the only crop now with a ready market with instant pay. Currently the demand for nuts is very high than the supply. We will extend this programme beyond Kiambu to other macadamia growing regions so as to benefit more farmers,” Wainaina said.
The CEO also called on farmers to avoid selling their produce to middlemen, saying they will only be exploited as their produce will be bought at throwaway prices.
“Jungle Nuts will be buying macadamia nuts directly from farmers so that we can ward off brokers who have been shortchanging them as well as ensure that farmers maximise on their earnings,” Wainaina said.
He said besides becoming top income earner for most farmers in the country, macadamia nuts will contribute to the country’s efforts of reaching 10 per cent tree cover.
Edited by R.Wamochie