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  • Sustainable cashew farming is helping fuel growth in Benin

    Apr 18th, 2016

    Tolaro Global, a Benin-based processor of raw cashew nuts, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to increase the number of smallholders supplying raw materials, provide fair trade and organic certification to cashew growers, and utilise clean energy solutions to power the company’s plant and surrounding community by 2020.

    To accomplish its goals, Tolaro will train 2,500 people from Benin’s Borgou region – a quarter of them women – in fair trade and organic practices. This unprecedented move will allow the company to source 20,000 metric tons of raw cashews each year – up from 2,000 per year – from 30,000 smallholder farmers. Tolaro will directly employ up to 2,500 people in the factory and train up to 11,000 farmers in these practices by 2020.

    “Tolaro believes that developing the cashew industry in conjunction with community development efforts will bring a sustainable transformation to the region and eventually the country”, said Jace Rabe, Tolaro’s founder and chief executive officer – a former Peace Corps volunteer and commodities trader with a love for Benin. “The long-term viability of Tolaro’s – or any business’s – success must involve developing the community in which it works. We are pleased to have our inclusive business recognised by the Business Call to Action.”

    With a network of 7,000 farmers supplying the company’s factory in Benin, Tolaro works with cooperatives to encourage the technical and economic development of its smallholder cashew farmers. To increase their competency and competitiveness, the company employs a staff agronomist and uses a train-the-trainer methodology to reach thousands of smallholders.

    Currently the company is helping cooperatives to achieve Fairtrade certification; it will start the organic certification process in August 2016. By learning and implementing organic cultivation standards and becoming Fairtrade certified, farmers have the potential to increase their earnings. A 10-15% premium is paid for Fairtrade and a 15-20% premium for organic. The range depends on the market and its current rates. It is therefore possible for farmers certified in both Fairtrade and organic standards to get up to a 35% premium over the market.

    Other initiatives include the addition of beekeeping to increase pollination, improve nutrition and provide a source of income. In addition, the company’s 600 local men and women employees are being mentored to increase their business skills, and Tolaro is investing in technologies to convert cashew shells into a clean-energy fuel source – both at its primary processing facility and in the local community. Best practices are being documented and disseminated to further improve farmers’ technical and professional capacities.

    Through all its efforts, Tolaro is supporting an increasing number of women smallholders: in addition to recruiting women farmers, the company is facilitating their enrollment in a training programme focused on nutrition, child and infant care, hygiene, malaria, and finances, which is run by a local NGO, Projects for Progress.

    “Tolaro’s commitment to inclusive business enables it to strengthen an important sector of agricultural production while advancing several Sustainable Development Goals,” said Sabha Sobhani, BCtA’s acting programme manager. “We are pleased to welcome the company as a member of the Business Call to Action.”