Kenya is sitting on a gold mine that if properly utilized would reap huge benefits for its people. For many years, tea and coffee farming in central Kenya and other parts of the nation has been the major source of income for thousands of farmers, however the macadamia nut farming wave is overwhelming and they are now changing tides and switching to macadamia farming.
Macadamia nuts has become a lucrative produce all over sudden with a kilo of the nuts selling for more than a hundred and a grafted seedling price shooting up from 300 to 500 Kenya Shillings. Between1986 to 2002 the price ranged between 7 to 23 Shillings per kg., and in 2005 it averaged 80 Shillings per Kg. For a long time, Kenya has been ranked second in production of Macadamia worldwide after Australia.
According to Dr. Lusike A. Wasilwa, Assistant Director Horticultural & Industrial Crops, Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARLO), Macadamia would do better if its production is fully optimized. “Kenya Macadamia nut is the king of the nuts; it is going to be known in the World as the most expensive chef meal.
It makes the food taste very nice; as it has 72% of natural oil. It enhances other tastes in salads, cakes, cookies, chocolates, biscuits to mention but a few; making them pronounce. Its oil is natural, no perfume, not greasy, not shiny but a natural sunscreen that have anti-aging nutrients, anti-dandruffs, anti-ringworms thus very best for lotions.” Dr. Lusike affirmed adding that the most expensive lipstick is made from macadamia.
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ORIGIN OF MACADAMIA
Macadamia is an old industry introduced into the country in 1942 from Australia. In 1960 the Government had an elaborate program of promoting macadamia from seeds that were planted and nurseries set up. These seed nuts were brought as shade crop for coffee to perform better in reduced temperature. In 1966 a lot of nuts had been planted in Central- Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Muranga, Eastern- Meru and Embu, Kakamega- Bukula and Bungoma – ADC.
The Japanese in 1972 realized that this is a plant they could help develop thus they brought an expert through JICA to help in selection of varieties that were good from the many different varieties that existed from the originally planted seed nuts. These scientists were based at Thika Horticulture Research Institute then known as National Horticulture Research Centre. They selected 30 varieties with high potential from different zones of the country; from the coffee main zones, from dry zones and from the highlands. An analysis was done in 1986 and Macadamia Development project was set at Practical Training Centre.
From the 30 varieties, 3 grades were selected, whereby the higher the oil contents in the macadamia the higher the grade but also the size in relation to market mattered. “It was the earliest research commodity in response to the market; for most of other commodities, they are bred for high agronomic yields but for macadamia it was the varieties that would fit a zone for example Murang’a 2. It has good yields; big nuts, thus I used to call it African nut”, Lusike explains.
Other varieties selected include Kiambu 3 & 4, Meru 23 & 24, Taita Taveta 1 & 2, Kirinyaga 15 and Murang’a 20, which until today is one of the best with very wide adaptability.
Macadamia is a beautiful tree, very forgiving; resilient to all weather, accommodative for old people; they don’t need to work so hard nor climb to pick the nuts but wait for them to fall. The other thing that makes Macadamia feasible product is the fact that the farmers can market their produce. “Macadamia is the only produce that the price is determined at the pick-up that is collecting it as per the wish of the farmer. ” Dr. Lusike indicates.
Currently, macadamia nut farmers sell their products to brokers who link them with processing companies such as Kenya farm nut companies amid others. A macadamia nut processing company was built in Karurina area of Embu County sometime back but it has never started working. Macadamia nuts can be eaten raw or processed to produce cooking fat.
Macadamia tree is permanent unless affected by a disease like powdery mildew at flowering stage. Production starts at three and a half years for grafted varieties and seven years for local varieties. The main varieties planted in Embu region are Murang’a 20 which has been branded the name Mugumo in the area because of its good performance. It has a tendency of producing a few nuts year through after the
main season and is the best yielding variety. The tree can produce an optimum of 70kgs under good management. the macadamia nut trees should be planted at a spacing of 7.5m by 7.5m.
According to Dr. Lusike, its seeds are a valuable food crop that is sweet when eaten raw. “It is good for the kids who love them.” She adds. Only three of the species, Macadamia integrifolia, Macadamia ternifolia, and Macadamia tetraphylla, are of commercial importance. Only two of these three species (Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla can be eaten raw. The remainder of the genus possesses poisonous and/or inedible seeds, such as M. whelanii and M. ternifolia; the toxicity is due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides.
These glycosides can be removed by prolonged leaching, a practice used by some Indigenous Australian peoples for these species, as well. Compared with other common edible seeds such as almonds and cashews, macadamias are high in fat and low in protein. They have the highest amount of monounsaturated fats of any known seed and contain approximately 22% of omega-7 palmitoleic acid which has biological effects like monounsaturated fat. They also contain 9% protein, 9% carbohydrate, and 2% dietary fiber, as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
Macadamia has great potential for poverty reduction due to the high value of its products and its low requirement for external inputs and a lot need to be done to improve the industry. Although the crop has been grown in the country for over 5 decades, the growth of the industry is not commensurate with the demand and market potential that exists.
Some of the challenges facing the macadamia industry in Kenya include lack of cultivars adapted to various agro-ecological zones, inadequate planting materials of high quality, high cost of the available good quality planting materials and pests and diseases that affect nuts thus lowering post-harvest quality.
The potential of agricultural biotechnology is relevant to genetic improvement of macadamia to compliment other efforts for its productivity and value. The beauty of macadamia is that it gives food nutrition security to children. The farmers say the product fetches better prices than coffee and tea regardless of how often they are harvested. Get our certified seedlings.
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