Cashew is not native to Ghana and made its first appearance in the 1960s. Initial interest in this crop was minimal, due to incorrect planting methods that produced suboptimal yields. In 1998, declines in Ghana’s main agricultural export, cocoa, sparked the promotion of nontraditional agricultural commodities, including cashew. That same year, the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) commissioned a study to investigate the potential of cashew to reduce poverty in Ghana, ultimately concluding that its potential was tremendous. Soon after, the government implemented the Cashew Development Project, which targeted areas like agricultural extension and training, disease and stumping treatment, and provided farmers with access to capital.
By 2016, cashew exports raked in $197 million USD in revenue. But while the area of cultivated cashew continues to grow across Ghana, there are still significant challenges in this sector including:
The quality of cashew in the region is extremely poor compared to other countries due to improper planting, thinning, pruning, pest control, and maintenance of the cashew trees, as well as unsuitable storage. In some areas, uncontrolled bush fires are a major issue, causing significant damage to local farms.
Government extension and training services are stretched thin. Many communities do not receive the regular training they need to better maintain their farms and improve their output. Moreover, farmers often have difficulty accessing farm inputs and quality planting materials. They experience issues with suppliers and access to funds, which makes securing the resources they need particularly challenging.
Cashew prices fluctuate greatly – from community to community and season to season. One reason this happens is because farmers lack the necessary negotiating power to secure a fair price for their cashew kernels. Farmers associations don’t have a strong enough collective voice and bargaining power to promote the interests of their members.
Ghana also lacks the necessary infrastructure and resources to process cashew domestically. Value chain addition in this industry is mainly realized through processing and packaging activities. At present, there are only a handful of processing and roasting companies in Ghana. The majority of raw cashew nut is exported to countries in Asia. As a result, most of the value of the cashew product is not retained in Ghana.
Gender Equality and Land Ownership
Cashew is a controversial crop because of its ties to land tenure and ownership. In Ghana, land ownership is typically only available to men. Therefore, women’s representation in the industry is minimal. Cashew is considered a “man’s crop” and profits typically go directly to the male land owners – even though both women and children contribute a great deal of the labor on cashew farms. And as more land is used for cashew plantations, the community plots available to women for shea or subsistence farming decrease.
The cashew nut is not the only high-value product produced by cashew trees. Each cashew kernel is attached to a cashew apple, which has the potential to be processed into juice, marmalade, jam, or alcohol. Countries like Brazil have built entire industries using cashew apple products. But the widely accepted procedure for processing the cashew apple in Ghana (and the rest of West Africa) is to pick the nut and throw the apple away or use it as animal feed. The apple has an extremely short shelf life, beginning to rot in about 4-6 hours. Domestic demand for cashew apple products is minimal but has some potential to increase. Most farmers lack the training and equipment necessary to successfully process or store these products.
First Steps: Partnership to Develop Apple Products
We’re currently working with the Jebuni Cashew group, located in the community of Bamboi, to develop cashew apple products.To date, we’ve purchased equipment for the creation of cashew juice and have transported 5 barrels of cashew apples for processing. This is the first step in developing a more expansive cashew program.Ultimately cashew apple products may only be profitable if exported to niche markets (i.e.;juice, alcohol and fruit preserves), for which we believe there to be an incredible market. Efforts will also be made to introduce the people of Bamboi to using the apple for additional nutrients in their diet during lean months.
BamCashea’s Cashew Program Objectives