In late 2013, the Aga Khan Foundation partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Technoserve, the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique and the Mozambique government to launch MozaCajú, an initiative to support the development of the country’s emerging cashew industry in a way that allows producers and processors to meet the requirements and preferences for buyers. The project’s goal is to engage with 30,000 small farmers to support their cashew farming, production, processing, and marketing. This, in turn, will increase their productivity and competitiveness, as well as allow them to reach new markets.
Mozambique’s climate and topographical conditions are both favorable for cashew production. For most of the 20th century, Mozambique has been the world’s leading producer of cashews. The continent’s first cashew processing plant was opened in 1960. Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975 at which time all factories and plants were nationalized. In 1987, the country’s government banned the export of all varieties of nuts to spur domestic production and distribution. After a 20 year civil war, farmers slowly returned to harvesting and producing cashews.
Cashew Cultivation by the Numbers
According to an official survey conducted in 2007, there were 38 million cashew trees and 1.4 million families earning a living off of cashew farming. In 2013, the baseline income for cashew-producing households was around $105 USD, though this can vary depending on the yield of production. Climatic issues, changes in global prices and demand are all factors that can affect agricultural incomes, particularly for cashews. While it is difficult to determine a living wage for farmers in Mozambique, AKF Mozambique staff estimates that farm incomes vary from $300 USD to a few thousand dollars per year.
One Farmer’s Story
Over the past four years, the MozaCajú project has touched the lives of many farmers, processors, families, and their communities. One of the people who has benefitted is Carlos Lassimo, a cashew farmer, and processor from Tutua village, located in northeastern Mozambique. Carlos Lassimo has been a cashew farmer since 2003 and before working with MozaCajú, he worked with Helvetas, a non-profit organization from Switzerland who offered him 108 seedlings to start his business.
The most significant lesson that Carlos has learned from working with the MozaCajú project is how to produce bio-spray and prevent pests from damaging the cashew crop. Using bio-spray has led to fewer insects in the fields, which has, in turn, allowed farmers to sell their cashews for a higher price – 8 meticals per kilo (which is about $1.30 in USD).
Carlos believes that the program has been successful. “The best outcome from the project was that we got so many seedlings and of course the income increased even for the farmers,” said Carlos. He mentioned that he is unhappy that the project is wrapping up soon, but hopes that it can be continued because people in the community see it as a clear success.
Carlos has learned how to plant his seedlings efficiently and how to involve the community in his farm. He has also learned how to produce organic bio-spray to control pests, which helps to reduce harvest losses. The price of the raw cashews in the markets has gone up and because of this the farmers now sell their products together, so that they can improve the negotiation and increase the prices. Learning these business skills has ultimately improved Carlos’s monthly income, the livelihood of his family, and the greater community of cashew farmers.
There are also noticeable differences in the community. Farmers like Carlos have been able to upgrade their roofs to a more durable material, are able to pay for things like their children’s school fees, and have been able to pay for more workers to help out in the field. Changing your roof to a rustic style one or getting a motorcycle or car are two signs of financial stability in this part of Mozambique.
The program has seen quite a bit of success. Farmers working with MozaCajú (25% of whom are women) are receiving frequent training on agronomy, farm management plans, and group organization. Farmers in the program spray their farms about 20% more than other farmers not in the program, yielding them better harvests. Nurseries are moving towards the goal of cultivating and supplying 400,000 seedlings. Processor factories are retrofitting their facilities with the latest food safety techniques and mechanisms. Finally, not only is the project educating processors on market demand; it is also paying off for global buyers and their processor counterparts.
Programs like MozaCajú that teach both farmers and processors how to use new technology and manage their crops and harvested nuts will help Mozambique become a global leader in the production of high-quality cashews.