Women and sustainability come first in Sierra Leone’s cashew value chain

31 August 2022
ITC News

ITC SheTrades West Africa project trained 200 cashew farmers in Sierra Leone on good agricultural practices; and partnered with the public and private sector to develop a gender-sensitive cashew supply chain.

In Sierra Leone, the cashew industry has risen in popularity. The government backs the sector to diversify the country’s agricultural economy and to ensure an important source of income for smallholder farmers.  

A large share of cashew exports from Sierra Leone is raw nuts, sold by farmers to buyers and traders connected to the international market. However, for many of those smallholder cashew farmers in the country’s northern part, a bountiful harvest is not always a given – especially in recent years which have seen the country experiencing a rise in mean temperature and unfavorable weather conditions, according to the World Bank.

Smallholder cashew farmers also lack cashew-specific skills on good agricultural practices, which is further exacerbated for women in the value chain. Women lack knowledge on proper harvest and post-harvest techniques, climate-smart agriculture, as well as gender-inclusive extension services.

In response to these challenges, early in 2022, the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades West Africa project trained 200 cashew farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (G.A.P.) through its private sector partner, Balmed Holdings in four target locations in the North of Sierra Leone.

The training focused on fostering a gender-respective approach and helped farmers with climate-smart practices for cashew production, such as intercropping with cassava, as well as efficient harvest and post-harvest techniques. The training also sensitized farmers on gender roles within the cashew value chain, which allowed them to gain a clearer understanding of gender-based constraints and how to address them.

Farmers learned hands-on good practices for weeding, pruning, post-harvest handling, sorting, drying, packaging and storage, adopting sustainable, affordable solutions and practices for many challenges at the farm level, such as pest and disease management. By learning about end markets and quality standards for cashews, the training allowed farmers, particularly women, to understand the competition, secure higher market prices and hear about opportunities to diversify their income.

To further expand the benefit of women producers involved in cashew farming, SheTrades West Africa also works with project partners including Mel-O Africa and the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agribusiness Development to develop gender-sensitive cashew supply bases. Both are now adopting a more gender-inclusive approach to their agricultural services for cashew farmers.

The approach has the added benefit of improving gender dynamics in the households and communities of the extension agents themselves, with Mel-O staff targeting an additional 2,000 cashew farmers within their work locations (see our snapshot on the partnership with Mel-O here).

The project’s synergy between gender inclusion and G.A.P. fosters the ability of small-scale farmers to sell and supply market-ready cashew kernels to exporters like Balmed Holdings and Mel-O Africa – which means more export potential for Sierra Leone.

About the project

The ITC SheTrades West Africa project, financed by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), is a four-year project (2019-2023) designed to improve the livelihoods of 10,000 women in the cashew, shea, and cassava value chains in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The project is being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) under the framework of the SheTrades Initiative with the active participation of national service providers.