(The original version of this story and the photos were first published by the El Heraldo newspaper)
NAMASIGUE -- Don Justino used to scrape a living cultivating yucca, sorghum, beans, and maize in the dry land around the town of Namasigüe, in the province of Choluteca. He never imagined making a living from cashews.
But now he and many other families do precisely that. And he admits that it’s a better crop for the region and for his community. “Cashew trees don’t require much care and they grow in dry soil,” he said.
Because cashews grow without any problem in the dry soil of southern Honduras they provide a more stable source of income for families than other more fragile crops and hence they make communities more food secure.
Food rations for work
This was precisely the objective of the major reforestation initiative, promoted by the predecessor of the national Institute of Forest Conservation (ICF) between 1998 and 2002.
The initiative was supported by WFP. While the planting was going on, families received food rations (flour, oil, beans and corn) in exchange for the labour needed to plant the cashew trees. In total, WFP delivered over 500 metric tons of food.
The reforestation program was conducted in several municipalities of Valle and Choluteca, in the southern part of the Honduras. Nowadays, every house in the region has a cashew tree.
"Here, everyone loves to eat it, whether alone or in fresh fruit, because it has many benefits," says Don Justino.
Cashew is a fruit that is commonly used to produce juice and wine. However, the value of this fruit is the seed or nut, located on the edge of the fleshy fruit, which is rich in protein and fats. Among its ascribed benefits are the reduction of cholesterol as well as being rich in minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
The nuts are sold to micro-companies created by farmers, who are in charge of processing them and selling them abroad. The product is first heated on wood stoves, and then put in oil, and finally, the edible seed is extracted to be packed and marketed as "cashew nuts.” The micro companies export their products to the U.S. and, in some cases, to Europe.