Cashew tree, also known as Anacardium occidentale, belongs to the family of Ancardiacea that includes, among others, mango fruit and Pistacio nuts.
The plant originates from the Caribbean Islands and the north east of Brazil.
Cashew in Uganda can grow potentially in all ecological zones of the country.
Better yields are obtained by an annual rainfall of 800-1200 mm and an extended dry season to allow flowering and fruiting.
Cashew trees prefer tropical climate with high and constant temperature and with enough sunlight for high yields. Dry spells do not affect the cashew as a perennial crop, as they do with the annual crops. In a period of climate change, where the unreliability of rainfall is increasing, the yields from cashew contributes to the resilience of the farming system in most of the zones in Uganda. In areas with more rainfall insect and pest pressure affects the quality of the nuts, producing spotted nuts and favours decay of the kernels, once affected.
Pests and diseases
The air humidity above 85 per cent leads to vulnerability to Powdery Mildew Disease, a fungal attack to tender leaves, flowers, young nuts and fruits resulting in drying and aborting of flowers.
The cashew tree is generally pest free if it is in good health. Major pests that attack it are tea mosquito, stem and root borer plus leaf miner which can be avoided by growing hybrid varieties which are disease resistant.
Experts cite in the publication that rural people in northern and eastern Uganda face food insecurity therefore integration of the cashew nut tree as a perennial cash crop seems to be an opportunity to increase farmer income.
A value chain analysis from production to marketing will position the market opportunity for the plant and farmers to gain increased income.
Cashew is a plant which can be harvested continuous as long as good agronomy practice is maintained. Provision of bee hives around the farm is important for pollination to take place.
There is clear demand for white roasted and unroasted cashew nut kernels with super markets and hotels in Kampala importing from Tanzania and Kenya 50 and 100 metric tonnes respectively per year.
Acham says that the hybrid varieties grown by the farmers are AC4, AC3, AZA, AC17 and local variety Esegu. Most farmers engaged in growing the plant have at least 40 trees on farm with yield potential of 10-15 kilogrammes per acre.