ETG | Beyond Beans have been active in implementing field-level sustainability programmes with farmers in West Africa for more than five years. Until recently, however, these efforts have focused on cocoa. With the USDA PROCASHEW grant, we have been able to apply our learnings and best-practices from cocoa with two of our cashew cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire: APM Daloa in Haut-Sassandra, and women-run cooperative COVIMA in Marahoué.
Over the past two years, 1,000 farmers at these cooperatives have completed trainings in GAP, and 2,000 are currently undergoing training. The beneficiary farmers together manage 8,420 hectares of land, 4,200 hectares of which are already under improved management practices or technologies with USDA assistance. Together, the beneficiary farmers have produced a collective 4,670 Mt of RCN since the project launched.
“In general, cashew does not get a lot of attention,” says ETG | Beyond Beans Project Manager for Cashew Sustainability Saloni Goyal. “I have seen that these trainings and the focus they have put on training farmers in good agricultural practices on cashew farms has helped a lot – for many farmers, receiving training on cashew farming has been new, as previously all the energy was put on cocoa, which is more labour intensive. But these trainings have helped the farmers in the project increase their farms’ productivity, and thereby also increase their incomes.”
For instance, she notes that farmers have learned to manage pest infestations more effectively, and that rejuvenating farms with new seedlings has been a success. As part of the project, USDA sponsored the distribution of improved cashew seedlings, where a minimal amount was paid by farmers and the rest covered by USDA and ETG | Beyond Beans. These new seedlings have already begun to improve yields on the farmers’ cashew plantations.
The project has also involved large-scale data collection, including both the mapping of cashew farms with GPS polygons (a methodology which aids in traceability as well as allowing deforestation risk analyses to take place to be sure that cashew is not sourced from forested areas), as well as the creation of digital farmer profiles on Mergdata, a platform built by Ghanaian IT company Farmerline.
Finally, we have implemented a demonstration plot at each of the cooperatives in the project. This element was not included in the original project proposal, but has been a useful way to demonstrate what good agricultural practices on a cashew farm should look like and how applying them can have a significant effect on yields, and by extension farmer incomes.
This article was written in 2021.