A large number of cashew nuts harvested worldwide originate in Africa. However, the majority of cashew farmers have low incomes and use inefficient farming methods. The Competitive Cashew Initiative (formerly: African Cashew Initiative – ACi) has been helping producers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ghana since 2009 to raise their yields and increase the quality of their produce.
Sub-Saharan Africa has a fast-growing population, with a large number of people living below the poverty line. Underemployment, hunger and poverty are widespread, especially in rural areas. The growing global demand for cashew nuts presents an opportunity to create jobs and increase the incomes of farmers. More than half of the world’s raw production originates in Africa. Yet harvest yields fall short of their potential and produce often fails to meet the high quality standards of international buyers. More than 90 per cent of jobs in the processing industry are located outside Africa.
The Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) supports producers in the five producer countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d‘Ivoire, Ghana and Mozambique – and enables them to earn a stable income. Launched in 2009, the initiative brings together more than 100 public and private partners, including the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), national governments and private international companies such as Kraft Heinz Foods, Intersnack and Olam. The initiative’s partners also include research institutes, who exchange experience across country borders and focus on developing and providing high-quality planting material.
Higher yields, increased income and new jobs
The initiative, which is coordinated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, works along the entire value chain, from production, processing and marketing right through to export. Experts give the producers advice about cashew farming and operational management.
Since 2009, more than 430,000 cashew farmers have taken part in further training, enabling them to increase their total earnings by more than EUR 100 million.
The farmers have also formed a cooperative in order to sell their harvests more efficiently and forge contacts with companies that process cashew nuts locally. By providing local processing companies with strong advice and support, the initiative has succeeded in raising processing capacity in the five producer countries from 9,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes in 2016. In addition, more than 440,000 new jobs have been created – 75 per cent in production, 25 per cent in trade and processing.
The initiative also promotes digital technology. In West Ghana, SAP software designed to make the value chain more transparent and efficient is being tested. Stocks can be managed using an app and shipments planned. Furthermore, each of the farmers’ deliveries is scanned in using a smart phone and the weight is stored. This was previously only possible by hand.
In 2016, the Competitive Cashew Initiative received an innovation award from the OECD Development Assistance Committee for its concept and measurable successes. The jury praised the initiative’s problem-solving and innovative approach, which has contributed to a significant increase in the incomes of producers. In all, ComCashew and its partners in the fields of production, processing and trade, have generated additional income totalling more than EUR 480 million.