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High-level guests gathered at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for the official launch of the Prosper Cashew project, a five-year initiative that will help West Africa capture much greater economic value from its cashews

Prosper Cashew 23 FebThe Prosper Cashew Project will operate in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Currently, the region produces 45% of the world’s raw cashews, but processes only 10% of that harvest. “Over five years, the Prosper Cashew project plans to create more than 4,500 new jobs (at least 50% of them for women), mobilise US$61mn in cashew sector investments and help processors to sell over US$200mn worth of cashew products to national, regional and international markets,” said Will Warshauer, CEO of TechnoServe.

“Cashew is currently the second-most exported agricultural product of Côte,” said Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Côte d’Ivoire’s minister of agriculture and rural Development. “The Prosper Cashew project will contribute to the development of the sector by facilitating the implementation of high value-added opportunities that will benefit both farmers and processors to produce traceable, sustainable and certified cashew products.”

Prosper Cashew will operate in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, and is funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), implemented by TechnoServe with support from ISF Advisors.

The project aims to establish a Cashew Catalyst Fund with a target size of US$30mn to US$60mn, strengthen the commercial viability of the cashew processing sector through capacity building, integrate supply chain and enhance marketing prospects of kernels processed in West Africa and provide a match-making facility, bringing investors to West African cashew processors.

Economic boost for a critical agricultural industry 

These opportunities will “transform the cashew industry with new jobs for West Africa, reduce its carbon footprint, and provide [cashew] buyers a supply source alternative to India and Vietnam,” said Krishanu Chakravarty, TechnoServe’s chief of party for the Prosper Cashew project.

West Africa is currently the world’s top producer and exporter of cashews. But its relative lack of local processing capacity means that much of the crop’s value is lost to processors outside the region. Prosper Cashew aims to act as a catalyst for the region’s cashew industry, strengthening and reviving existing cashew processing facilities; facilitating access to working capital; and promoting additional investment in the sector.

“The opportunity to stop sending our raw materials [abroad] but rather to transform them in the continent and realise the full benefits, is now very clear in the minds of West African business and political leaders,” said TechnoServe’s West Africa regional director Larry Umunna in an interview with the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.