For small-scale farmers in Malawi, farming macadamia nuts independently is a challenge. But one Dutch-Malawian partnership project has found a solution. Using trees from Sable Farming, small-scale farmers can now enter the macadamia nut market. One of those farmers is Anna Kanyowa. She is now farming macadamia nuts in the southern village of Kalimbuka after being given 100 macadamia trees, just like 3,000 other farmers. Now, Anna Kanyowa can call herself a genuine macadamia farmer.
Building a future with trees
It used to be challenging for small-scale farmers to grow this popular crop. They lacked the necessary equipment, knowledge and market access to sell macadamia nuts. This project teaches farmers to grow, store and process the nuts. This knowledge gives them the opportunity to boost their income and participate in the international market.
"Growing macadamia nuts is a long-term investment for these farmers as the trees only start to yield nuts 7 years after planting," says H.S. Pannu, director of Sable Farming in Malawi. But, once the tree provides nuts, it will provide good harvests for up to 35 years, even during dry periods. Farmers can also harvest and sell the nuts for much of the year, which is very important for the farmers. Mr Pannu explains, "Farmers harvest crops such as maize and beans in the spring. By growing macadamia nuts too, they can earn an income all year round."
Increasing crop knowledge
To help the farmers, Sable Farming trains coaches at Development Aid from People to People (DAPP Malawi). The coaches then teach groups of about 50 farmers how to grow and process macadamia nuts. They also learn how to combine growing nuts with growing other crops.
A group of 60 students is also learning more about nut farming at the Mikolongwe Vocational School. As part of this project, they are completing a specially developed study module on the techniques required. This knowledge will enable more farmers in Malawi to benefit from macadamia farming and increase their chances of success.
"Farmers are increasing their general knowledge about macadamia farming and how to produce quality nuts. We also teach them about plant diseases so that they can prevent these," says Fabiano Montfort from DAPP. Participants in the programme, such as Anna Kanyowa from the village of Kalimbuka, then share their experiences with other farmers. This encourages them to plant macadamia trees as well.
The growth of the macadamia market
As a result of this project, more and more farmers in this region of Malawi are growing macadamia nuts, increasing the total yield. In 2021, farmers produced 5,000 kilos of macadamia nuts in Malawi. But in 2023, the project partners expect a yield of around 100,000 kilos of macadamia nuts. In 10 years' time, the yield could be as much as 900,000 kilos.
The Dutch company Intersnack Procurement purchases these nuts. Nut farmers can access the European market through Sable Farming and Intersnack.
"The fact that more farmers are growing macadamia nuts means that we will definitely get a good supply of sustainably grown and processed macadamia nuts in the future. That is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy of 'Buying into the future'," says Wim Schipper, director of Tree Nuts at Intersnack Procurement.
Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security
Besides Sable Farming Ltd. and Intersnack Procurement Ltd., the Dutch social enterprise Sympany⁺ also has a role in this macadamia value chain project. The organisations involved in the project mainly focus on farmers from the Mzuzu region in the north of Malawi and farmers from Thyolo in the south.
The organisations have invested €2.8 million in this project. Half of this funding is from the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV). FDOV is closed, but our advisors are happy to answer questions about food security projects. For more information on our food security projects, visit our food security for all page.