Partnerships Will Harness Technology and Innovation to Improve Opportunities for Cashew Farmers and Processors across West Africa

The USDA and TechnoServe will strengthen support to cashew growers and processors in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria

(Arlington, VA) — As countries in West Africa contend with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, two new major initiatives will promote the development of a key agricultural sector in the region: cashew. International nonprofit TechnoServe announced two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support the development of the cashew sector in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. The expansion of the BeninCajù project in Benin and launch of the new Prosper Cashew program will help drive change across this important value chain, benefitting thousands of farmers and others employed in the sector.

West Africa is the world’s leader in cashew production, accounting for more than 45% of the raw cashew nuts harvested around the globe each year. However, the sector still holds significant untapped potential for national economies, farmers, and workers. 

For example, farmers’ incomes are limited by poor linkages to profitable markets, as well as low yields and difficulty accessing agronomy training. Meanwhile, just 10% of the region’s cashews are processed within West Africa; the rest are exported raw to Asia, where they are processed before being sent to consumer markets around the world. As a result, the region is missing an opportunity to bolster its economy: a TechnoServe analysis estimated that West African countries would earn an additional $422 million annually and generate 500,000 jobs if half the region’s raw cashews were processed locally. 

The expansion of the BeninCajù program, an initiative funded by USDA and led by TechnoServe, will support the development of Benin’s growing cashew sector by piloting and scaling new technology and help roll out improved, certified cashew varieties. Since launching in 2015, the program has supported more than 75,000 farmers to earn $79 million in sales of raw cashew nut, while helping the country’s cashew processing sector triple its capacity and generate more than 2,000 jobs. 

With an extension through 2023, the program will scale efforts to use remote-sensing technology like drones, coupled with machine learning, to identify where cashew plantations are located and which farmers need agronomy training; deliver training content remotely through mobile phones and massive open online courses (MOOCs); and develop a mobile application to allow cashew buyers to more easily determine the quality of cashew nuts, among other innovations. The program will also allow Beninese cashew farmers to access improved cashew varieties that will lead to higher yields and greater profitability.  

The new, five-year Promoting Opportunities for Cashew Processing in West Africa (Prosper Cashew) partnership between USDA and TechnoServe will catalyze growth in the cashew processing sectors in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. The program will help processors, equipment manufacturers, and other value chain actors access working capital and other funding through the new Cashew Catalyst Fund and a match-making facility with investors. The program will also provide technical assistance to the processors and other value chain businesses that receive funds, helping to build the capacity of businesses across the cashew value chain. Over five years, the program will improve the capacity of 60 processors who source cashews from 34,000 farmers; facilitate $497 million of investment in the cashew sector; and generate $1.5 billion of cashew kernel sales.

“With improved production and value addition from local processing, the cashew sector presents an enormous opportunity to create better livelihoods across West Africa,” said William Warshauer, president and CEO of TechnoServe. “We are very excited to expand our partnership with USDA, which has already delivered transformative impact for thousands of farmers, workers, and other women and men involved in the cashew value chain.”


About TechnoServe

TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.