Partnership cracks open the macadamia market for small farmers

Macadamia market Malawi

Soon, small farmers in Malawi will be growing macademia nuts. They are now entering this growing market thanks to a Dutch-Malawian project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Up to now, macadamia nuts have always been cultivated by big businesses in Malawi.

The project provides 3,000 farmers in Malawi with 300,000 small macadamia trees through an investment of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Up to now, small farmers lacked the required materials, knowledge and a sales channel to grow the popular nut themselves.

Income throughout the year

Up to now, it was difficult for smallholders to start growing macadamia nuts. A macadamia tree produces good nuts for 35 years, even during dry spells. But the most significant obstacle is the time it  takes to get started. From the point a macadamia tree is planted, it takes seven years before the first nuts can be harvested.

"So macadamia cultivation is a long-term investment for these farmers," says H.S. Pannu, director of processing firm Sable Farming, which grows the seedlings and distributes them to the farmers.

This will have a big impact on the farmers: "Macadamia cultivation will generate a steady extra income for them. It’s an addition to the income from crops such as corn and tobacco, which are harvested in the spring. Macadamia cultivation will give the farmers an income throughout the year."

Training

To help the farmers produce a solid business case, the project partners are providing support in the form of training. Sable Farming is educating trainers at DAPP, a local NGO that in turn gets to train groups of around 50 farmers in cultivating macadamia nuts.

"In addition to general knowledge on macadamia cultivation and implementing a standard for quality, we’re also, for instance, helping the farmers to prevent plant diseases", says DAPP's Fabiano Montfort.

And the farmers will share their knowledge and experience. As a result, other small farmers are encouraged to start cultivating macadamia nuts.

Growing market

The efforts of the farmers and organisations involved should lead to the first harvests by 2022. The project partners are anticipating a volume of around 100,000 kilograms of macadamia nuts in 2022. This is to increase to 900,000 kilograms a decade later. Dutch firm Intersnack Procurement has pledged to purchase the nuts.

A win-win situation, says Bas van den Brink, Sustainability Manager at the company: "We can provide commitment and a market pull, encouraging suppliers to start long-term processes and make investments."

The required knowledge and skills are also being thought in schools. Students at Mikolongwe Vocational School are trained in macadamia cultivation. Macadamia farmers throughout Malawi should ultimately get a boost from this programme.

Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security

The organisations involved are primarily focusing on farmers from the Mzuzu region in the north of Malawi and Thyolo in the south. They are collectively investing € 2.8 million in the project. Half this amount comes from the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV), a programme RVO.nl offers on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With this grant, the ministry encourages public-private partnerships in the field of food security and private sector development in developing countries. Dutch social enterprise Sympany+ also contributes to the project.

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