High-level guests streamed into the Radisson Blu Hotel in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, last Thursday to mark a major step forward for the West African cashew industry.
They gathered for the official launch of the Prosper Cashew project, a five-year initiative that will help West Africa capture much greater economic value from its cashews. Currently, the region produces 45% of the world’s raw cashews, but processes only 10% of that harvest.
An Economic Boost for a Critical Agricultural Industry
“Over five years, the Prosper Cashew project plans to create more than 4,500 new jobs (at least 50% of them for women); mobilize $61 million in cashew sector investments; and help processors to sell over $200 million worth of cashew products to national, regional and international markets,” said Will Warshauer, CEO of TechnoServe.
‘‘Cashew is currently the second-most exported agricultural product of Côte d’Ivoire and contributes between 8 and 9% of GDP,” said Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. “The Prosper Cashew project will contribute to the development of the sector by facilitating the implementation of high value-added opportunities that will benefit both farmers and processors to produce traceable, sustainable and certified cashew products.”
The project aims to:
- Establish a Cashew Catalyst Fund with a target size of $30-60 million
- Strengthen the commercial viability of the cashew processing sector through capacity building
- Integrate supply chain and enhance marketing prospects of kernels processed in West Africa
- Provide a match-making facility, bringing investors to West African cashew processors
These opportunities will “transform the cashew industry with new jobs for West Africa, reduce its carbon footprint, and provide [cashew] buyers a supply source alternative to India and Vietnam,” said Krishanu Chakravarty, TechnoServe’s Chief of Party for the Prosper Cashew project.
Capturing Local Value for West Africa’s Cashew Sector
West Africa is currently the world’s top producer and exporter of cashews. But its relative lack of local processing capacity means that much of the crop’s value is lost to processors outside the region. Prosper Cashew aims to act as a catalyst for the region’s cashew industry, strengthening and reviving existing cashew processing facilities; facilitating access to working capital; and promoting additional investment in the sector.
“The opportunity to stop sending our raw materials [abroad] but rather to transform them in the continent and realize the full benefits, is now very clear in the minds of West African business and political leaders,” said TechnoServe’s West Africa Regional Director Larry Umunna in an interview with the BBC’s Focus on Africa program.
The Prosper Cashew launch event drew dignitaries such as U.S. Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire Richard K. Bell; USDA Deputy Administrator of Global Programs Mark Slupek; Minister of State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani; Minister of Commerce and Industry Souleymane Diarassouba; representatives from the Ministry for the Promotion of Investments and Private Sector as well as from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Diaspora; senior executives and representatives from the cashew processing sector; and many others.
The event presented the project’s vision and enabled key stakeholders to begin building collaborations to strengthen West Africa’s cashew sector.
The Prosper Cashew project builds on years of TechnoServe experience developing the cashew sector to contribute to national economic growth. In Mozambique, for instance, TechnoServe’s work across the cashew value chain helped Mozambican processors achieve a 55% increase in exports and a 64% increase in revenue. Participating cashew farmers experienced a 53% increase in productivity and 66% increase in income.