Increasing yields, meeting quality standards

Cashew nuts are very much in demand. Much of the crop comes from Africa, where cashew farmers struggle to make a living. But that’s about to change.

African Cashew Initiative

The African Cashew Initiative (ACi) is a multi-stakeholder partnership that brings together a large number of financial backers, including the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, more than thirty international companies and various national governments and local organisations. It aims to help cashew farmers in Africa become more competitive.

Around 45 per cent of the global cashew crop is produced in Africa. Due to the poor quality of the nuts, low productivity, depleted soils, a lack of organisation and poor entrepreneurial skills, the farmers earn very low incomes. What’s more, less than 10 per cent of the crop is processed in Africa.

GIZ is implementing a project launched in 2009 in five countries which provides advice for producers on improved farming methods and farm management. The aim is to help the farmers increase their yields, meet international quality standards and thus increase their incomes. So far, these measures have benefited more than 400,000 farmers, whose average household incomes have more than doubled to nearly EUR 160. More than 2.2 million household members have benefited from these increases. The farmers now see the benefits of joint marketing, and contacts with local processing companies have been established. Almost five times as many nuts are now processed locally by these companies. The work of the African Cashew Initiative is proving successful in this context too, with local companies creating a total of almost 5,800 jobs. The cashew industry, in which 73 per cent of the workforce are women, also helps integrate women into the labour market.

The project, implemented by GIZ together with three international partners, shows how innovative technologies can also benefit very poor population groups. It adopts a mix of strategies. One example of this approach is a cashew farmers’ cooperative in western Ghana, which is trialling software developed by SAP that is designed to increase transparency and efficiency along the cashew value chain. So how does it work?

With the SAP application, members of the cooperative can now use a smartphone to scan sacks of cashews delivered by farmers and record the weight under the name of the farmer supplying the cashews. Until now, records of the quantity of cashews supplied to the cooperative by each farmer were kept manually. Digital technology makes it easier for the managing director of the cooperative to track how many kilos of cashew nuts each farmer has sold to the cooperative. Using the same software, he can also manage stocks and plan when to send a truck to the processing plant. This is a good example of how state-of-the-art technology can achieve notable successes in reducing poverty.

The African Cashew Initiative’s concept and measurable successes have also impressed the jury of the 2015 DAC prize ‘Taking Development Innovation to Scale’, which is awarded by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Out of 43 competing projects, the jury selected the Initiative for
one of three prizes that recognises organisations for taking an innovative development project beyond the pilot phase to achieve broader impact. The project was submitted by BMZ as an example of an innovative German approach to development cooperation. The eleven-member jury acknowledged in particular the Initiative's multifaceted methodological approach and its successful cooperation with the public and private sectors.