The Competitive Cashew initiative (ComCashew) through its Mater Training Programmes (MTPs) to promote the African Cashew Value Chain is boosting cashew production in Africa. That is being achieved in partnership with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), with support from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG). Formerly known as the African Cashew initiative (ACi), ComCashew is a private-public partnership project under the implementation of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur international Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (German Development Cooperation) and presents a new and innovative model of broad-based multi-stakeholder partnership in development cooperation. According to Ghana Country Report released in April 2019, ComCashew in collaboration with private companies and public sector partners, made significant progress and impact for more than 512,000 farmers and about 40 processing companies.
The report says since ComCashew’s inception in 2009, around 530,000 new jobs were created in six project countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone in production, trade and processing. In specific terms, the report explains that 75 per cent of those jobs were in production, 20 per cent in trade and five (5) per cent in the processing sectors respectively. The beneficiaries of the jobs created “have increased their net income by over US$600” and thus achieving “a sustainable reduction in rural poverty”, the report added.
ComCashew has been generally involved in diverse activities for the vibrancy of the cashew industry in Ghana and Africa. But with respect to current activities, “ComCashew through its intervention supports the development of conducive business environment for all actors of the cashew value chain”. In this connection, some activities presently on-going include; “Technical advice to Ghanaian cashew sector actors”, “support to scion gardens as well as nurseries”, and “Technical assistance and organisation of trainings on cashew apple processing”. Other activities are “Yield survey to access productivity of cashew plantations”, “Advice to processors on business planning, management and access to finance”, “Support to production of improved planting material and development of cashew demonstration plots using Climate-Smart Agriculture by CRIG” and “support to improving production through the use of tissue culture”.
Climate Smart Agriculture
It is a national plan with formulated specific strategies that will contribute developing climate-resilient agriculture and food systems for all agro-ecological zones, as well as the human resource capacity required for a climate-resilient agriculture promotion in Ghana.
Facts and Figures
It is an undeniable fact, that ComCashew has for the period of its existence catapulted the holistic and stable growth of the cashew industry in the production, processing and training (capacity building) of farmers, among others in Ghana. The facts and figures below from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 lend credence to that assertion. The national production volumes of raw cashew nut (RCN) estimated in metric tonnes was 70,000, 75,000, 75,000 and 110,000 for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. In 2015, the national processing capacity-installed (metric tonnes) was 65,000 and the figure (65,000) remained same in 2016 and 2017 but it dropped to 45,750 in 2018. But there appeared inconsistent growth in the national processing capacity-utilised (metric tonnes) within the period under consideration because it was 5,000 in 2015, 14,500 in 2016, 10,700 in 2017 and 23,300 in 2018. That notwithstanding, it is refreshing to note that the number of ComCashew-trained farmers (cumulative) consistently increased as it was 40,409 in 2015, 41,243 for 2016, 45,743 for 2017 and 47,813 in 2018.
Promoting Competitiveness of the African Cashew Value Chain
Currently in its third phase, ComCashew focuses on building a sustainable cashew value chain and increasing the competitiveness of African cashew production and processing by constituting a new era of multi-stakeholder partnership in development cooperation.
Thus by the virtue of ComCashew’s interventions based on four main objectives - Production, Processing, Supply Chain Linkages and Sector Organisation, “donors and private companies work hand in hand to achieve poverty reduction in project countries”- Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.
About Production as objective one, ComCashew aims at “increasing raw cashew nut production and quality” while under the Processing Sector, the plan is to “increase quantity and quality of African cashew kernel and cashew by-product processing”.
Under the Supply Chain Linkages, ComCashew is “establishing and expanding sustainable links to the global market place” whereas through the Sector Organisation, ComCashew is “advocating policies that favour cashew production and processing”.
It is not surprising therefore that “ComCashew/GIZ was honoured in Paris by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the 2015 DAC Prize “for Taking Development Innovation to Scale for its successful commitment and ambitious realisation of the GIZ programme ACi”.
“The objective of the DAC Prize for Taking Development Innovation to Scale is about investing in what works and encouraging more of it” said Douglas Frantz, Deputy Secretary-General of OECD.
The OECD, headquartered in Paris, France is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives.
In the light of the above, ComCashew since 2009 has made massive progress and impact for more than 500,000 farmers and about 40 processing companies. Moreover, about 530,000 new jobs were created in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Mozambique.
The jobs revolved around production, 74 per cent, trade, 19 per cent and processing, seven (7) per cent and since 2009, statistics were achieved in the above-stated five countries.
Significantly, 512,000 farmers (19 per cent women) were trained, “about 480 million Euros in cumulative income from cashew production”, “about 880 Euros in annual income per farmer in 2018”, “about 450 graduates of Cashew MTP (33 per cent women) since 2013” and more than “25 million Euros in income generated through processing in 2018”.
Furthermore, “between 2015 and 2018, the number of people employed in cashew processing has more than doubled from about 16,000 to 38,000 (of which 78 per cent are women)”, “45 matching grant projects at 15 million Euros” and more than “40 million Euros new taxes annually on RCN for selected cashew-producing countries”
It is significant to point out now that the effectiveness and success of ComCashew’s operations culminating to its laudable achievements, besides its quality crop of human resource led by Madam Rita Weidinger, the Executive Director have been made possible through funding by “the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and public and private partners”.
Funding for Cashew: The ComCashew Matching Fund
In a recent interview on the sideline of the Second Session of the Eighth Edition of the GIZ/ComCashew MTP on cashew value chain promotion with Ghana News Agency in Sunyani, Madam Weidinger affirmed ComCashew will strengthen the Ghanaian cashew industry to make it internationally more competitive, saying as a result, there was a lot of innovation on the production side of the commodity.
As a justification of the above and for the realisation of its general objective(s), it is interesting and refreshing that “The ComCashew Matching Fund” has been created.
It “is a unique private-public partnership model and the only fund for cashew worldwide set up to accelerate the development of the cashew industry. After its introduction in September 2012, there are 27 Matching Fund projects implemented in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Mozambique. Farm productivity and farmer income ultimately benefit from public and private investments. Business linkages are strengthened with the Fund. This allows reduced transaction costs and assures quality and traceability”.
Who qualifies for the Matching Fund (MF)?
Against the background of its overall objectives, ComCashew has identified specified actors or players in the cashew industry as qualified applicants to achieve the purpose of the Fund’s establishment.
These are “Processors of cashew nuts and apples”, “Farmer-based organisations”, “Buyers/traders who purchase cashew kernel or apple produced from Africa”, “International kernel retailers”, “Private Sector Foundations” and “Government/Research”.
How to apply for the Fund?
An applicant’s submitted application must be accepted by GIZ/ComCashew, followed by submission of full proposal for the acceptance by the MF Board to lead to “Contracting phase” and project implementation.
Who are involved?
According to its Manager, Mr. Ernest Agbavito, three cash funders, Bill and Melinder Gates Foundation, The German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ), the Dutsch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), seven countries comprising five ComCashew countries, as well as Gambia and Kenya, seven research institutions, 15 processors, retailers, five Governments and government organisations and 201 Farmer Unions are involved in the MF project.
Impact of the Fund
Mr. Agbavito indicates that so far 27 MF projects have been funded by ComCashew partners and 12 of the projects are involved in improved planting and 15 projects in building supply chain linkages.
Accordingly, the projects have contributed in increasing nut quality and ensuring sustainable growth in production and consequently in promoting sustainability in the cashew supply chain.
The MF grant has therefore resulted in 69 per cent RCN directly sourced from Farmer-Based Organisations, increase of RCN quality by 1.6 percentage points on average, increased farmer incomes; five per cent mark up on prices to farmers, reduced transaction costs and costs of intermediaries, due to the increased linkage of private partners and enhanced knowledge transfer to farmers.
In view of all this, ComCashew has thus crafted the MTP(s) as the underpinning factor in promoting the African Cashew Value Chain.
ComCashew describes it (MTP) as “unique” because it was designed “to increase the theoretical knowledge and practical skills of African cashew experts along the value chain and consequently, to further promote the competitiveness African cashew”.
In addition Mr. Ernest Mintah, the Managing Director of the ACA also says “The MTP has been carefully designed to develop cashew experts who are endowed with knowledge and skills in the entire cashew value chain”.
A combined figure of 275 or more participants from many African countries have participated in the second sessions of the last three MTPs, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Editions held at Sunyani in June, July and August this year (2019) respectively.
The Essence of MTP
The essence of the MTP among others is to create the platform for participants “to share knowledge, discuss best practices and lessons learnt, as well as build national and regional networks for future collaboration”.
Thus participants are trained to become trainers, so that back home in their respective countries they would “have a multiplier effect on the cashew industry by sharing their knowledge and experiences gained from attending tailor-made training”.
The “facilitators and technical experts teach, evaluate and re-design each training session according to participants’ needs”.
“During knowledge sharing sessions of theories and their application, participants learn about all aspects of the cashew value chain, ranging from production and processing of RCNs, to economics, cashew market dynamics, marketing and financing mechanisms”.
Stable and guaranteed price for farmers
The efforts of ComCashew would come to naught if farmers did not get the deserved and rewarding price for their produce. But as observed, the challenge confronting Ghanaian cashew farmers was fluctuating and unstable price, which is discouraging many of the farmers in the Bono and Bono East Regions.
Government’s Intervention and ComCashew’s Commendation
At the opening of the second session of the Eighth Edition of the MTP on Monday, July 29, 2019, Madam Weidinger minced no words to commend the Ghana government for “its commitment in ensuring that the Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA) is established soon”.Mr. Seth Osei-Akoto, an Agronomist and currently Director of Crop Services at the MoFA, and also Cashew Value Chain Expert in an interview said the TCDA when established would be private sector-led in its operations. He said beside all objectives, it would be working to ensure stable and guaranteed prices for cashew and other tree crops except cocoa. Indeed the MTP is a wheel enhancing cashew production in Ghana and Africa.