Ghana: Kwabena Taylor, Manager of a Cashew Processing Company

Kwabena Taylor, Manager of a Cashew Processing Company in Ghana

To be successful and organise his business in a way that will benefit as many people as possible – that’s what Kwabena Taylor, who manages a cashew processing company in Ghana, wants. And GIZ has supported his efforts via the African Cashew Initiative, which is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and various other companies. Thus far over 250,000 small farmers have been trained on how to improve the quality of their cashew nuts. In addition, the Initiative has advised more than 20 companies in West Africa and created more than 5,000 jobs.

What role does Ghana play in your life?
I travelled a lot in my youth. I lived in the USA and visited Europe. I always thought the ‘grass was greener on the other side.’ But it isn’t – and I soon came back. Ghana offers so many opportunities; I love the country and the people. When my brother showed me this piece of land, I immediately began to make plans.

Why cashews? Why did you decide to go for this line of business?
Cashews are in demand the world over and the market is growing. In days gone by, African countries used to export their raw cashew nuts and so forego the substantial income that can be generated by processing them. Nowadays there is more and more local processing going on. We pay our farmers fair prices, help them improve the quality of their nuts and create jobs – especially for women.

Which challenges did you have to surmount in order to set up the factory?
In Ghana it is difficult to get funding for agriculture. We had just got together enough money when we realised that the raw products the local farmers were offering us were not up to standard. Luckily we have good international partners that advise us well on all these challenges.

What is the most important thing in your life?
First and foremost I am a business man. I want to be successful and earn money. But I also feel very responsible towards my workers. If I had to close the factory they would all lose their jobs. Often an entire family is dependent on this income. For this reason, the most important thing is that as many people as possible benefit from my company.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
I would finance the vocational training of promising young men and women – education is the most valuable commodity there is. And I would put money into environmental protection projects: I would like to see a greener world. But I would still go to work in my factory every day and I would continue to invest money in cashew processing in Ghana.

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    Kwabena Taylor trains and advises cashew farmers from the area. Around 500 farmers sell their produce to KONA and earn a fair price. Photos: Barbara van Rijn
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    The cashew nuts have to cool down after steaming. They are then broken open. Taylor monitors the process regularly.
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    To be able to assess the quality of the raw cashew nuts, you need a good head for maths: The KOR (Kernel Outturn Ratio) is calculated using a complicated formula.
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    Before peeling the cashew nuts are hot steamed. The woody shells of the peeled nuts are used to heat the fires.
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    More than 300 people have found work in Taylor’s factory – most of them are women. Taylor and his production manager monitor the quality of the nuts.
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    Taylor works hard. He wants to expand his cashew processing factory to ensure that the local farmers and his own workers earn a good living.
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    Taylor’s workers categorise the cashew kernels according to their size, colour and integrity – a precondition for the international market.
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    Particularly important in order to hold your own against international competition are hygiene standards. Modern machines and well-trained staff are obligatory.
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    To ensure his staff get home quickly after a hard day’s work, Taylor provides a bus service run by the factory.
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    Taylor does not yet have a wife. But he hopes his company will soon be in a sufficiently stable economic position to allow him to set up a small family of his own.