Poulex aux nois and the nut that could build Haiti, with a little bit of help

Cashews on the tree

Cashews on the tree

Many might wonder at northern Haiti’s signature dish – Poulet aux noix or chicken with cashew nuts.

“I’ve had an interest in all things Haitian for a number of years and I didn’t know that the climate & soils allowed cashew production in Haiti. What an interesting idea. I like cashews,” commented a reader back in 2009, in response to the happy news that Brazil was donating a mini-factory to allow for low-cost cashew nut production in northern Haiti. The plant, developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), was also expected to enable small farmers to enter the market.

Five years on, I’m not sure how that plant is doing and if it achieved any or all of the original aims. But cashew nuts seem pretty ubiquitous here and Poulet aux noix especially so.

Haiti could do worse than emulating Senegal and The Gambia, both of which have done well with cashew as a cash crop. First, the tree requires little care. Second, it doesn’t need much water. And third, it does just fine even in sandy soil. The big bucks expenditure though is the picking and processing of the nuts. This is why less than two per cent of Africa’s raw cashews are actually processed on that continent. So even though African farmers produce nearly 40 per cent of the world’s cashews, they’re generally unable to literally cash in on their crop. Instead, like Haiti’s cashew farmers, they sell the raw nut and leave their big buyers to make it into a value-added product.

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac