Kenyan Women Workers Face Hazardous Conditions in Reviving Cashew Nut Industry

The cashew nut industry in Kenya is booming, but female workers face dangerous conditions extracting nuts by hand without proper protection, raising concerns about the industry's sustainability.

Israel Ojoko
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Kenyan Women Workers Face Hazardous Conditions in Reviving Cashew Nut Industry

Kenyan Women Workers Face Hazardous Conditions in Reviving Cashew Nut Industry

The global demand for cashew nuts has been on the rise, and Kenya's Kilifi region is working to revive its cashew nut industry to meet this growing demand. The industry now indirectly employs 50,000 people in the region and has received financial support from the European Union.

However, many female workers in some factories are facing dangerous working conditions as they extract the nuts from toxic shells by hand, often without proper protective equipment.

These women, who make up a significant portion of the workforce in the cashew nut factories, are tasked with manually extracting the nuts from the shells, which contain a toxic liquid that can cause raw, blistered, and swollen skin. The working conditions in these facilities are often cramped and unhygienic, with workers earning around €1 per day for their labor.

Why this matters: The revival of the cashew nut industry in Kenya has the potential to provide much-needed employment and economic growth in the region. However, the lack of proper safety measures and fair working conditions for the predominantly female workforce raises concerns about the industry's sustainability and the well-being of its workers.

Local authorities have begun to take notice of the situation and have started inspecting the cashew nut factories. In one case, a factory was even closed down until it remedied its practices to ensure the safety and well-being of its workers. The European Union, which has provided financial support to the industry, has also expressed concern about the working conditions in some of these facilities.

"We are working with the local authorities to ensure that all cashew nut factories in the region comply with safety standards and provide their workers with the necessary protective equipment," said a representative from the EU's development agency. "The revival of this industry is important for the economic growth of the region, but it must not come at the cost of the health and safety of the workers, particularly the women who make up a large part of the workforce."

Key Takeaways

  • Kenyan Kilifi region reviving cashew nut industry to meet global demand.
  • Industry employs 50,000 people, but many female workers face unsafe conditions.
  • Women manually extract nuts from toxic shells, often without proper protection.
  • Authorities inspecting factories, with one closed until safety issues addressed.
  • EU provides financial support but expresses concern over worker well-being.