Stepping into the bustling Palais des Congrès in Cotonou, Benin, the air buzzed with excitement. It wasn’t just any event; it was Benin Cashew Week – a testament to the growing significance of Benin’s cashew industry. The event ran from October 2-4, 2023. It was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries together with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and TechnoServe’s BeninCajù project.
BeninCajù is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture and TechnoServe. Over eight years, the project has worked to strengthen and expand Benin’s cashew sector into a more productive, competitive, and sustainable source of economic growth.
The Evolution of Cashew in Benin
Benin’s economy is highly dependent on the export of raw agricultural goods – namely cotton and cashew. Most of the country’s cashew is grown by smallholder farmers. The cashew industry in Benin has expanded more than tenfold in the last two decades, but very little cashew is processed locally into other products, such as cashew butter or cashew apple juice.
Benin’s cashew nut industry offers significant opportunities, but its potential remains underdeveloped. The requirements linked to achieving the objectives of increasing raw cashew nut production and local processing capacity set by the Government of Benin call for more sustained efforts on everyone’s part to enable the country to benefit from the added value of this sector.”
– Soulé Manigui, TechnoServe Benin Deputy Country Manager
Encouraging local processing is an opportunity to increase farmer incomes and promote job creation. Limited investment in processing equipment and infrastructure and other value chain inefficiencies have kept the sector from reaching its potential. A value chain is a series of interrelated processes that bring a product from production to the end consumer.
Cashew value chains in Benin and abroad have made significant progress in recent years, particularly in terms of organization, production, processing, marketing, and governance. The industry still faces challenges placing cashew products (raw nuts, kernels, and cashew apples) in specific markets. Marketing raw cashew nuts in Benin relies on an extensive network of stakeholders with varied interests and goals. TechnoServe collaborates with actors throughout the value chain, including smallholder cashew farmers, cashew nut and apple processors, and government institutions.
Celebrating an Opportunity for African Economies
In recent years, the Beninese government has prioritized investments in the country’s cashew sector. Benin Cashew Week was an opportunity to celebrate that investment. The event aimed to publicize and promote the achievements of Benin’s cashew industry and highlight the commercial opportunity that the sector represents for African economies.
With the government’s decision to stimulate local cashew processing, and the recent innovations in by-products by certain players, TechnoServe is convinced the entire cashew value chain in Benin needs to be promoted and highlighted. That’s why we’re so proud to support the government’s initiative to organize Benin Cashew Week. It’s a major event in the sector that will positively impact both the Beninese and African economies.”
– Maimouna Mbacke, TechnoServe Benin Country Director
The event included enriching panel discussions, an exhibition on the cashew value chain from nursery to marketing, and a culinary demonstration with cashew-based ingredients. A highlight of the event was the culinary competition between 10 candidates chosen after a tight casting. The contestants developed a variety of cashew-based dishes with the grand prize being a motorcycle.
Participants in the event shared information on Benin’s current cashew production and processing capacities and the advances in the cashew sector over the last few years. The event also celebrated the contributions of projects such as BeninCajù, which, for eight years, has played an essential role in strengthening Benin’s cashew sector.
“This initiative is very important for me,” says one participant at the event. “I was able to see everything that’s going on in the cashew sector in Benin […] and I think I’m going to take advantage of it soon because I’m a cashew producer in the north of Benin.”
A Bright Future for Cashew in Benin
As Benin’s second-most valuable export, cashew has the potential to transform the country’s economy. Building a more productive, competitive, sustainable, and inclusive cashew sector benefits smallholder farmers, local communities, small businesses, and the national economy. Since 2015, TechnoServe has worked with cashew farmers and processors to improve their ability to earn more money from this important global industry. The event was an opportunity to celebrate some of these accomplishments and collectively commit to continued growth across the sector.
- Blog: U.S. Ambassador’s Visit Celebrates West African Cashew as a Cash Crop
- Video: From Seed to Trade, Cashew Production in West Africa
- Case study: Planting Gender Equality in the Benin Cashew Value Chain
All images by CED Event