Letter of the week: Let’s embrace value addition to boost incomes, economy

Grace Mapenzi, a young farmer on their cashew-nut farm in Kilifi in this past photo. Kenya is known to be one of the top exporters of cashew nuts not only in Africa, but globally.  PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Kenya is known to be one of the top exporters of cashew nuts not only in Africa, but globally.
  • The European Union has invested Sh236 million in the crop, which is expected to help revive the sector.
  • Why do we have to import such products when we have huge idle land at the Coast? 
  • Agriculture is the backbone of most African countries, and should thus remain so in the coming years for the benefit of our economies. 

There is great market potential for agricultural products in Kenya and across Africa, but lack of information, resources and training on how to tap into the opportunities remain a critical challenge.

Kenya is known to be one of the top exporters of cashew nuts not only in Africa, but globally. But the produce is exported raw yet if processed,  it could earn more.

In Kilifi, one of the top producers of the nuts, there is very high unemployment and poverty levels,  which can be eliminated if we invest in the crop. 

The European Union has invested Sh236 million in the crop, which is expected to help revive the sector.

But this is not enough, the government in partnership with the county governments should set up manufacturing or innovation hubs and industries too, so that locals can start adding value to the produce.

They can roast the nuts or flavour them  before selling. They can also start making cashew nut butters, blend them with other nuts or make snacks such as cashew nuts bars,  cookies , breads and cakes. 

Women and youths can be taught such skills at the innovation hubs. With good marketing skills, they can sell both locally and even export to other African countries and leverage on the existing trade opportunities to sell their products globally.

The same applies to coconut. I recently went to buy coconut milk and I was shocked to see that what is on the shelves of our supermarkets is from Asia.

Why do we have to import such products when we have huge idle land at the Coast? 

This is evidence that agriculture can be a very important and key employer in the country. The value-added coconut products can be a good foreign exchange earner for the country.

According to the World Bank and Africa Development Bank, Africa imports food worth $35 billion, and majority of what is imported can be produced locally. 

Africa, being the food basket of the world, has great potential to buy its produce, and this is evident in our continental export statistics.

Agriculture is the backbone of most African countries, and should thus remain so in the coming years for the benefit of our economies. 

Linda Chepkwony,  Nairobi