The 'Grey Gold'

The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Cashew nuts are high in fat, rich in vitamin E and a good source of minerals, particularly magnesium and zinc. © GIZ

Maria Schmidt

Maria Schmidt studied Political Science, focussing on development cooperation and policy analysis in sub-Saharan Africa early in her Franco-German studies at the Sciences Po Bordeaux Institute and University of Stuttgart. This led her first to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation, then to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Benin and, most recently, to the GIZ in Ghana. She has been working there for the ComCashew project since December 2015, and, within her advisory duties, is primarily involved with public partners in promoting the cashew value chain.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

GIZ

50 percent of all cashew nuts come from Africa, making the continent the largest producer of cashew nuts worldwide. The majority of this harvest is produced by 1.5 million smallholders. Cashews play an increasingly important economic role in the countries producing them. In 2016, this growing importance resulted in the founding of the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC) in the Ivory Coast. For the first time, an organisation for agricultural commodities was established at the initiative of African production countries.

 

(c) Steffen Kugler/World Vision
The raw cashew nuts are procured from the local farmers and local market.

Agriculture plays a very special role in Africa. Two thirds of the African population work in this sector, making it the largest employer on the continent. Most African countries face the challenge of trying to establish a sustainable and forward-looking agricultural sector. The rural population and especially the youth, which makes up just under 60 percent, needs prospective outlook.

 

The cultivation and processing of cashew nuts opens up these types of avenues. Cashews, also called ‘grey gold’, are considered a ‘miracle weapon’ in many countries, since they are very promising. Cashew trees are ideal for adapting to climate change. The progressive climate change is forcing many farmers, especially in the Sahel region, to try new things. Periods of increased temperature and dryness in these areas, for example, make traditional mango cultivation difficult. Cashew trees offer these smallholders an innovative and future-oriented alternative. Another great potential lies in local processing, which creates numerous jobs. Last but not least, as an export product cashews facilitate a connection to the international market.

(c) Steffen Kugler/World Vision
The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit attached to the cashew nut.

 

However, the cashew sector also faces numerous challenges. Smallholders of cashew nuts are usually poorly organised, associations and cooperatives hardly exist, and there is a lack of financial and human capacities. Furthermore, most countries do not (or only sporadically) support cashews with political initiatives, regulations and funding programmes.

 

Nevertheless, governments in production countries are becoming increasingly aware of the potential of the cashew sector. This led to the founding of the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC) in Ivory Coast in November 2016. It aims to promote the sector by sharing and providing analytical tools and information. The fledgling organisation now has to prove that it has the right response for a promising dynamic sector.

 

Bundling all energies to act as one in representing the cashew sector

 

On 17 November 2016, the first four member states, Benin, Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso, signed the Convention establishing the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC). Today, the CICC has nine member countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Togo, and Senegal), which jointly represent 42 percent of the global cashew production.

 

The idea is that the big producers can act as one on a global scale,’ says Dr Adama Coulibaly, director of the Ivorian cashew and cotton regulator CCA (Conseil Coton et Anacarde), in an interview with RFI, Radio France Internationale. ‘When OPEC talks about oil, nobody can really go against it. This is our goal for the cashew sector: to have an organisation that produces statistics, analyses the sector and pools all energies.’ The initiative to establish the CICC goes back to the Ivorian government. Today, Ivory Coast is the global market leader with a cashew production of more than 700,000 tonnes annually.

(c) Steffen Kugler/World Vision
The cashew nut, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. © Michael Drexler/GIZ

The CICC is similar to other existing agricultural commodity organisations. Goods produced in Africa that are important for international trade were combined early-on in so-called ‘commodity organisations’, mostly from a colonial-economic perspective and later as a result of various international commodity agreements. In the agricultural sector, this included export goods such as cocoa, coffee, cotton or rubber. One of the oldest organisations like this is ICAC (International Cotton Advisory Committee), which was founded in Washington in 1939. ICAC became an international platform for all production countries and a reference point for statistics, information and analysis for the cotton sector. These are intergovernmental organisations whose members are the respective production countries and sometimes also consumer countries.

 

Their goal is the publication of information on the individual agricultural commodities to promote trade. A trade that for the most part leads from the global south to the markets of the industrialised nations. The annual conferences serve as political exchange forums. The CICC also wants to become a reference and platform for the still early cashew sector. One major difference is that the CICC is an initiative of African players, based in Ivory Coast, with the aim to promote and represent this increasingly important resource straight from Africa unlike cotton (ICAC) from Washington or coffee (ICO) and cocoa (ICCO) from London.

The cashew sector has the distinctive feature of being a relatively young sector that has only gained importance in recent decades. The sector now has to be structured jointly and from an African perspective. In contrast to other organisations that were set up as mere information platforms, the CICC is more than just a forum that simplifies trade with developed countries by publishing sectoral data and analysis. The CICC considers itself to be a political platform and also pursues a development policy interest. In the preamble to the convention establishing the CICC, the member states recognise the potential that cashews have in the fight against poverty and for the creation of prospects in the member states. Furthermore, the signatory states ‘welcome the pioneering work of technical and financial development partners in the cashew value chain and announce their willingness to take ownership of the achievements in order to improve them’. According to the convention, the goal of the CICC is to promote cooperation and coordination between member states in all areas of the cashew value chain.

 

The cashew, more than just a nut

 

The potential of the cashew tree is of great importance to African countries. Originally, the tree was planted extensively to combat desertification. The African share of today’s global cashew production already exceeds half of the global production and this trend is increasing. Currently, cashew production is not increasing in any other growing region, neither in Southeast Asia nor Brazil. This increase is nowhere near the demand for cashew nuts on the world market, which is growing at an annual rate of approximately 6 to 7 per cent. Africa offers the best conditions for growing cashews, and as climate change progresses, the cashew tree, which strives in a dry climate, is increasingly becoming an alternative for many smallholders, especially in the Sahel zone. Because cashews create potential for farmers involved in cultivation, but also and especially in local processing. The proportion of locally processed cashew nuts is still far too low. Only one out of 10 cashew nuts grown in Africa is actually cracked on the continent. Most of the production is exported as raw material to Asia. The refinement into edible cashews takes place in countries such as India and Vietnam because processing in Africa is still not profitable enough in most cases.

 

(c) Steffen Kugler/World Vision
The processing of cashewnut is a four stage process, each designed to produce quality edible cashew kernel.

 

This is partly due to lack of infrastructure, lack of investment and fluctuating prices. Governments in production countries are trying to create political and economic incentives to strengthen local processing because this is an occupation that primarily employs women and represents much-needed income for many families. There is huge potential for production countries to increase local processing. According to the competitive cashew initiative ‘ComCashew’, a regional GIZ project that has been promoting the cashew value chain in Africa since 2009, up to one million jobs could be created each year if all African cashew nuts (around 1.5 million tonnes) were processed into cashew kernels in Africa.

 

(c) Steffen Kugler/World Vision
The process of grading is designed to sort the white cashew kernel into different grades. The cashew kernel are packed into plastic bags of different sized for sale in local market and in tins for sending to other markets.

Cashews thus offer important social, economic and ecological potential. Governments in production countries are aware of this and see the promotion of the cashew sector as an opportunity to make a long-term contribution to the development of their countries. The founding of the CICC can be understood as an expression of this opportunity.

 

The organisation is still in its infancy. Since its inception, a ministerial meeting has taken place and the 9 Ministers that were present agreed on an operationalisation plan. Now it is important to implement this plan. Next November, the SIETTA fair will be held in Abidjan for the third time (‘Salon International des Equipements et Technologies de l'Anacarde’), the only cashew industry fair in Africa and thus the most important meeting point for this sector in the entire continent. Same as in the previous year, the agriculture and industry ministers of the nine CICC member countries will meet for the next Council of Ministers and most likely appoint the first Secretary General of the CICC. After a two-year formation and operationalisation phase, the CICC is finally about to make a breakthrough. Government officials are well aware of the necessity and importance of the CICC. It now remains to be seen if this particular African initiative can provide the framework for a still young but dynamic and promising sector in Africa. The 1.5 million smallholders who make up this dynamic range certainly have the highest expectations.

 

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Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars  

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An opportunity for the continent

A contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.

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(c) Kate Holt / Africa Practice

Leveraging investment impacts

A contribution by Heike Baumüller, Christine Husmann, Julia Machovsky-Smid, Oliver Kirui, Justice Tambo

Any initiative whose aim is to reduce poverty in Africa should focus first on agriculture. But what kind of investment has the greatest impact? The use of scientific criteria provides some answers.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

A contribution by Tanja Reith

At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.

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The Life of Their Dreams - What Children Want

Interview with Gnininkaboka Dabiré and Innocent Somé

Later on you want to become a farmer yourself, or would you prefer to take up another profession? Two young people from Burkina-Faso talked to representatives of the Dreyer Foundation about their parents' farms, the profession of farmer and their own plans for the future.

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"Without peace, there will be no development"

Interview with Karina Mroß (DIE)

What contribution does development cooperation make to conflict prevention? What can it do for sustainable peace? Political scientist Karina Mroß talks to Raphael Thelen about post-conflict societies and their chances for peaceful development.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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MarkIrungu /AGRA

Spiritual mortar for the young generation

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Fred Swaniker is working building a new era of leaders. And what about agriculture? ‘It needs to be more sexy!’

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A new attempt at Africa's industrialization?

A contribution by Helmut Asche

Afrika is about ready. There are promising approaches for a sustainable industrialization. However, the path poses challenges to the continent.

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"The virus does not need visa"

Interview by Dr. Ahmed Ouma (CDC)

Countries across Africa coordinate their efforts in the fight against corona by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the African Union in Addis Abeba. Until now, the curve of new infections has been successfully flattened – why? Dr. Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, explains the work of CDC in an interview with Tilman Wörtz.

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(c) Welthungerhilfe

5 questions to F. Patterson: Why is there more hunger?

Interview with Fraser Patterson

Every year in October, the "Welthungerhilfe" aid organisation, with the Irish "Concern Worldwide" NGO, publishes the Global Hunger Index, a tool with which the hunger situation is recorded. What are the trends - and what needs to be done?

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Podcast: Fighting world hunger together

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government

At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).

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'It has never been more possible'

Interview with Carin Smaller (Ceres2030)

Over a period of two years, the Ceres2030 team spent researching answers to the questions of how much it will how much it will cost to realize SDG 2 and where that money should be spent most effectively. IISD Senior Advisor and Ceres2030 Co-director Carin Smaller about small farmers, machine learning and women empowerment.

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"Agricultural research unties the Gordian knot"

Interview with World Bank Vice President Voegele

The CGIAR agricultural research organization is systematically repositioning itself. We spoke with Juergen Voegele, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, about progress to date - and discuss what needs to be done collectively to stop global hunger in ten years.

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“We have to prepare for the unexpected”

Interview with Dr Maria Flachsbarth (BMZ)

In August, Germany’s development ministry set up a division concentrating on One Health topics. Parliamentary State Secretary Maria Flachsbarth on knowledge gaps at the human-animal-environmental interface, the link between One Health and food security, and lessons learnt from previous pandemics.

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Kakaoernte

Doing More With Less

A contribution by Jochen Moninger

Innovation is the only way to end hunger worldwide by the deadline we have set ourselves. The secret lies in networking and sharing ideas – and several initiatives are already leading by example.

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A new U.S. Africa policy?

An article by Jan Rübel

After four years of Donald Trump in the White House, it is time to take stock: What policies did the Republican government pursue in African regions? And what will change in favor of Joe Biden after the election decision? Here is an evaluation.

 

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A partnership to fight hunger

A contribution by GAFSP

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was launched by the G20 countries in 2010 in response to the 2008-09 food price crisis to increase both public and private investment in agriculture. An overview of the programme's approach, results and impact.

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Hunger must not be a consequence of the epidemic!

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup (DIE)

Even though COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of humanity, the reaction to the pandemic must not cause more suffering than the disease itself. This is particularly relevant for poor developing countries, where the impact of the corona crisis on food security is even more severe!

 

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Innovations for a secure food supply

A contribution by German Agribusiness Alliance

The COVID 19 pandemic is hitting developing and emerging countries and their poorest populations particularly hard. It is important to take countermeasures at an early stage. Companies in the German agricultural sector want to make their contribution to ensuring the availability of urgently needed operating resources.

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

A contribution by Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report by Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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(c) Privat

Borderless food security

A contribution by Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

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How do you campaign “Food Systems”?

Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.

The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.

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UNFSS Pre-Summit: What did it achieve?

Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)

After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.

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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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KLAUS WOHLMANN / GIZ

Wanted: German investment in African agriculture

Interview with Stefan Liebing

Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

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