By Bakary Ceesay
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food For Progress (FFPr) Regional Cashew Value Chain Project is implementing a $38 million, six-year project in The Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau which will enhance the regional cashew value chain to improve the trade of processed cashews in local and international markets.
On January 29, 2020 U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia R. Carl Paschall and The Gambia’s Minister of Trade, Regional Integration, Industry and Employment, Lamin Jobe, spoke at a launch ceremony in Dakar, Senegal for the USDA’s Food for Progress regional cashew value chain project, also called the Linking Infrastructure, Finance, and Farms to Cashews (LIFFT-Cashew).
At the launch event, numerous government officials, as well as private sector leaders from The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, discussed the regional integration of the cashew value chain.
The United States was represented by both the U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia, Richard Carlton Paschall III, and the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Tulinabo Salama Mushingi. Both U.S. Ambassadors emphasized the need for collaboration between the three countries.
Ambassador Paschall highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for producers and processors to boost economic development and working together to meet the needs of local and international markets.
In his remarks, Ambassador Paschall said: “I believe that government policy that encourages market-led development and regional integration of the cashew sector, through the private sector, is critical to integrate the cashew value chain and achieve the project’s goal. This will help stimulate economic development and incite the creation of jobs here in the region by meeting market demand requirements.”
Ambassador Mushingi echoed this message by reciting the well-known proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
In turn, the government representatives of the beneficiary countries stressed the importance of adding value to their region’s cashew sector, as only approximately 5-6 percent of their produced cashew nut is processed locally.
Facilitating the processing of cashew nuts within the region will create new jobs and increase incomes, attract more investment to the cashew sector, and create sustainable socio-economic development.
After the opening ceremony, workshop participants discussed key issues for the cashew sector, including access to finance, market linkages between cooperatives and processors, organic certification, and government strategies to facilitate regional integration.
During the group breakout session, government officials discussed regional integration and the three governments’ roles in supporting cashew value chain actors.
The private sector group, which consisted of farmer cooperatives, processors, investors and financial institutions, discussed the challenges and opportunities they face, the importance of linkages between the value chain actors, and the support they need from their governments in supporting collective sales, processing and exports.
These private sector participants and government officials will continue their collaboration as project LIFFT-Cashew progresses to pave the way for increased regional integration of the cashew value chain and increased trade in processed cashews.