Cashews were introduced to West Africa in the 1960s to fight erosion and desertification. Over the past decade, increased demand, expansion of orchards, and increased government prioritization has caused raw cashew nut production to become a critical commercial activity for smallholder farmers, and a major revenue stream for governments. West African production is also growing faster than that of any other region—10 percent over the past decade, generating $1.5 billion in export sales for over 1.1 million farmers. Côte d’Ivoire is the world leader in cashew production, followed by Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
Cashew gains made by West African producers face several serious challenges: reduced yields due to aging cashew tree stocks, farmers’ limited technical and financial capacity to rehabilitate and renovate aging orchards, and an undeveloped nursery sector unable to provide timely and consistent high-performance seedlings to offset declines in productivity. This is complicated by trade policies that have boosted exports also pit countries against their neighbors, producing uncoordinated, regional policies that weaken public and private-sector support for cashew grower/seller advocacy efforts.
The five-year United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) PRO-Cashew project will work to boost the competitiveness of West African producers by improving efficiency and quality in production and trade, and by working to develop more coherent regional trade and investment policies. In doing so, the project will strengthen producer capacities as well as develop incentives to renovate and rehabilitate cashew farms, improve production and quality, and create a more competitive West African raw cashew nut for the international market.
- Capacity Building: CNFA will build the capacity of farmers through selected farmer organizations and agro-food suppliers over the life of the project in the areas of business and orchard management, and service delivery. In collaboration with the Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) and the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), CNFA will work with local ministries of agriculture to review training curriculums, identify gaps and mentor extension teams in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), renovation and rehabilitation (R&R), and climate- resilience.
- In-Kind Grants for Equipment & Inputs: CNFA will leverage matching contributions of individual grant disbursements from private, public or farmer sources to catalyze private investment, increase stakeholder partners’ and farmers’ profitability, and build the capacity of cashew farmers to renovate and rehabilitate their farms.
- Develop Agrodealers & Input Suppliers: CNFA will support Tree Global to improve the efficiency and sustainability of seedling production systems through public-private partnerships, establishing cost-effective, high-performance tree seedlings at central nurseries and distribute seedlings close to farms through rural-based seedling retail businesses. CNFA will also facilitate signing agreements between research entities and the central nurseries to ensure long-term public-private partnerships. PRO-Cashew will coordinate with existing efforts of the governments, World Bank and research institutes.
- Develop an Integrated Data System: CNFA, through Development Gateway, will identify gaps in the enabling environment for cashew data collection, storage, usage and dissemination, and address them by building a multi-country cashew data management system (Cashew-IN) that meets policymaker, farmer and private sector needs.
- Disperse Improved Market Information: CNFA will strengthen existing data as well as fill significant gaps in data coverage and quality. The integrated Cashew- IN will be accessed and used by farmer organizations, policymakers and private sector investors to understand the national, regional and overseas cashew markets in terms of supply and demand. It will also monitor the cashew supply chain, support traceability for quality control, and inform evidence-based policies to increase profitability and marketability of cashews in West Africa.
- Improve Policy & Regulatory Framework: CNFA will engage with national and regional policy makers, private sector stakeholders, and development agency partners to facilitate and improve regional trade policy cooperation. With the support of regional research centers, CNFA will conduct an analysis of trade policies currently deployed by West African cashew-producing countries and produce annual reports on both country and regional competitiveness, government policy analysis, and foreign direct investment, with quantitative and policy analysis.