USAID, Kraft Foods Work Together to Help Guinean Cashew Sector

Story and Photos by Laura Lartigue

A “Global Development Alliance” (GDA) has been formed between USAID, Kraft Foods, and local Guinean partners in the cashew sector to increase cashew production in Guinea, and to allow poor rural dwellers–local farmers and their families–to reap the benefits.

USAID/Guinea has this week announced the launching of a Global Development Alliance (GDA) with U.S. food giant Kraft Foods to reinforce cashew production systems in Guinea. The “Guinea Cashew Alliance” is contributing a total of $1 million to help foster economic and social development through the promotion of sustainable tree crop (cashew) systems that increase cashew production, generate income, conserve biodiversity and offer long-term economic incentives to poor rural farmers and their families.

Even tasty Planter’s nuts start out like this…on the tree, the fruit is at the top, and the cashew is contained in a hard shell at the bottom. Local farmers would eventually like to exploit the fruit as well, which is juicy and sweet, and rich in vitamin C.

In a ceremony held at the Ministry of International Cooperation on November 22nd, U.S. Ambassador Jackson McDonald, USAID/Guinea Director Annette Adams, and Kraft representative John Petersen, along with Guinean national partner representatives gathered to celebrate the new alliance, and toast the promise that increased cashew production can alleviate poverty in rural Guinea.

“Eighty percent of the Guinean population makes a living through agricultural activities,” pointed out Guinean Minister of Cooperation Habib Diallo during the ceremony, “which is why this project is very important for our country.” Since both poverty and the use of unsustainable agricultural practices have resulted in the degradation of the natural resource base in Guinea, the project will also work to demonstrate effective natural resource governance in the cashew sector.

Cashew culture is often part of the medium- to long-term natural resource management plan for many local communities in Guinea. In addition to promoting reforestation through the planting of trees, it also supplements important short-term subsistence agricultural practices, and can result in higher farmer/family income generation.

A woman in Boke uses a dehuller to take cashew nuts out of their hard shells. The industry often employs women in cashew processing, which adds to local household incomes.

“Sustainable development is essential for countries such as Guinea to climb out of the depths of poverty,” says Frank Young, Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Africa Bureau. “This program, which is an excellent example of USAID’s Global Development Alliance model, will provide cashew farmers with the training and tools needed to achieve sustainability, thus assisting the nation in moving forward as a whole. The alliance between Kraft and USAID creates a win-win situation for Kraft, USAID and, most importantly, for the farmers of Guinea.”

Guinea is said to hold much promise in the cashew sector, with an estimated production potential of 2,000,000 hectares. Up until the mid-1900′s, during French colonial rule, much emphasis was placed on promoting cashew production in Guinea. However, after independence, many research plantations were left to grow wild. Recent research conducted on these aged cashew trees shows though that their quality and yield are among the highest worldwide. If production increases in the coming years, Guinea will have the potential to be highly competitive in global export markets.

The concept of Global Development Alliances first began in 2001 by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in order to reinforce partnerships between the public and private sector. A development alliance is an agreement between two or more parties to jointly define a development problem and then share resources to jointly contribute to its solution.

GDAs represent a reorientation in international development assistance by USAID, and a recognition that in reaching out to the private sector, the public sector can form new and more productive partnerships. Alliances achieve both their economic and development objectives through leveraging significant resources, applying proven development expertise, and working jointly with new and existing partners, often using innovative approaches.

“Kraft is excited to work with USAID to develop Guinea’s cashew sector,” said a representative at Kraft. “By partnering with USAID, Kraft taps into a wealth of local knowledge and expertise in agribusiness development, which combined with our market development capabilities will result in more income for rural producers and a better product for our consumers.”

Scraping and sorting nuts in Boke, Guinea…this is the final labor-intensive part of processing before the nuts get roasted, salted and packaged.

To run the Guinea Cashew Alliance, USAID is contributing $500,000. Kraft Foods, along with local partners SPCIA (an agricultural support and export organization) and IRAG (the national agricultural research center) have pledged to fully match USAID’s financial commitment, with Kraft committing up to $250,000 to the alliance.

Specific goals of the program include: increasing cashew production and quality; improving the commercialization chain; improving the well-being of producers; a mutual exchange of information and research results; natural resource and biodiversity conservation; and assistance to and reinforcement of Guinean institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the IRAG with their goal of natural resource conservation in Guinea.

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