macadamia smallholder farmers in malawi

The above video presents the following description of the benefits of smallholder macadamia farming in Malawi by HIMACUL manager Ken Mkangala:

  • Ntchisi has been chosen because of its high altitude - that is why it is suitable for macadamia growing. For the altitude we are talking in the range of 500 m to 1500 m above sea level.
  • For some one who has never never grown macadamia, the first thing you should know is macadamia is a very high value crop; economically a farmer should really benefit by growing macadamia. Once planted in an area it will contribute to soil conservation and water conservation - in general it will conserve the environment.
  • The second thing to know is that macadamia does not require a lot of inputs to grow it, so even with minimal management even with just organic matter applied a farmer should be able to get a yield.
  • The only problem that farmers are facing is that the seed gives a crop that gives them yield or return after 3 or 4 years, so farmers are not very ready to wait for that period.
  • The growing of macadamia does not necessarily prohibit farmers from growing other crops. Even the spacing of this crop is so wide the farmer can also grow other crops in between, so the farmer can produce a lot of crops from one piece of land.

Two significant benefits highlighted by smallholders Elias and Elisy on the video are:

  • Elias: "I have to keep healthy and macadamia will be the pension for my life."
  • Elisy: "When I first saw those macadamia trees I tested them and found that they were very nice to eat. So I gave the trees to my children to plant. When you eat the nuts you get strong and when you give it to an unhealthy child he changes and gets healthy."

about macadamia

Macadamia trees are evergreen trees native to Australia named after the Scottish-Australian scientist John Macadam. Macadamia was introduced into Malawi onto the tea plantations in 1968 where it flourished and is now a major export income earner for Malawi.

macadamia nuts on a tree

Three of the four species of macadamia (integrifolia, ternifolia, tetraphylla) produce edible nuts which are particularly rich in monounsaturated oils (omega-9 > 50%, omega-7 > 10%). The macadamia nut contains the highest amount of monounsaturated fat of any seed.

The high nutritional value of macadamia nuts could provide significant benefits and improvement to the health of smallholder communities in Malawi.

Content in 100gMacadamia nutOlive kernel flesh
Energy 3,080 kJ
(740 kcal)
3050 kJ
(730 kcal)
Carbohydrates13.8 g 19.2 g
Sugars 4.6 g2.7 g
Dietary fiber 8.6 g16.5 g
Fat75.8 g76.5 g
    Saturated 12 g10 g
    Monounsaturated 59 g55 g
    Polyunsaturated 1.5 g6.5 g
Protein7.9 g5.2 g
Vitamin A equiv. 20 µg (3%)
Vitamin B6 0.275 mg (21%) 0.15 mg (10%)
Vitamin C 1.2 mg (1%)
Vitamin E 0.54 mg (4%) 19.1 mg (125%)
Vitamin K 7 µg (5%)
Trace minerals
Calcium 85 mg (9%) 260 mg (25%)
Iron 3.69 mg (28%) 2.5 mg (20%)
Magnesium 130 mg (37%) 55 mg (15%)
Phosphorus 188 mg (27%) 20 mg (3%)
Potassium 368 mg (8%) 210 mg (5%)
Sodium 7.8 g (500%)
Zinc 1.3 mg (14%)

The data in the table has been sourced from the nutrition tables at Wikipedia.
Nutritional value is per 100g, percentages are approximate daily recommended allowance for adults.

macadamia trees

Trees are produced in nurseries by grafting accepted clones on to young seedlings, and they mature at around twelve years. They grow best using compost covered with mulch, and this fact makes macadamia a good smallholder tree as expensive inorganic fertilizers can do more harm than good.

macadamia tree

The nuts mature annually, and fall to the ground where they are regularly harvested and then air dried in shade.

  • Excellent tree root systems for soil conservation;
  • A macadamia tree can start bearing fruit in 4 to 5 years* and when when mature provide 27-58 kg nuts/year** with a lifetime of 60 years or more;
  • Trees used in agroforestry produce oxygen and absorb CO2 providing an opportunity for smallholder macadamia farmers to potentially generate income through carbon offsetting;
  • Slow burning of the hard macadamia shell has been found to produce very high quality charcoal - biochar.

* if well planted and cared for NMT have found trees bearing fruit within 2½ years.

** this figure refers to the mass of kernel and shell. Typical kernel mass is about 25% to 30% of the total. Kernel harvest can be between about 12 to 15 kg per year and the amount of crop varies depending on growing conditions, moisture and the kernel/shell separation process.

harvesting macadamia

In Malawi macadamia nuts ripen during the main rains in January and February.

When ripe, the nuts turn brown within the husk, and drop naturally to the ground.

Harvesting or gathering the fallen nuts takes place frequently to avoid pest damage.

The harvested nuts can be spread out in the shade to air dry and during this drying time the nuts are dehusked.

When the kernel has dried it rattles within its shell when shaken. Only when dry can macadamia nuts be offered for sale.

Pictured are a smallholder family sorting a harvest of macadamia nuts and baskets of the beautiful fruit of their labours!

macadamia orchards and beehives

Growing macadamia is a long term sustainable solution and especially when the trees are wll integrated with other crops, trees and activities. NMT promotes intercropping and partnering trees to build a biodiverse environment which can help improve yields and protection from pests. Macadamia orchards also provide an ideal habitat for bees.

In order to bridge the gap between planting macadamia and it's production of nuts interim activities have been developed. Training and resources have been provided for bee keeping. The beehives are wooden boxes some five feet long and eighteen inches in cross section, often painted green. These are hung in macadamia orchards or local forests. In orchards they benefit flower pollination and thus increase cropping. Sales of honey provide smallholder income. This work allows realistic flexibility and practical self sufficiency as farmers wait for the greater crop of nuts to be harvested and marketed.

Keep up-to-date with how we are working to build food security in Malawi

Facebook A stand-alone letter F, as per the facebook design/brand. Twitter A vector graphic of the twitter logo - a simple outline of a bird in profile, with its wing raised. Instagram A vector graphic of the Instagram logo - a simple outline drawing of the front of a camera. Youtube A vector graphic of the YouTube logo - a triangle "play button" on a slightly rounded rectangle background.