Case study of the African Cashew Initiative - Focus: Ghana. Lessons from working with new and multiple partners - Emerging Results, by Melina Heinrich, DCED, 2012

    Summary of results
    The global demand for cashew kernel has been growing at about 7% p.a. for the last decade, yet African smallholders have not benefited much. The constraints to growth are well known, and include low productivity, poor quality and limited processing capacity. This case study documents the progress of the African Cashew Initiative (ACi) since 2009 in addressing the constraints and enabling growth, with a focus on Ghana as one of its programme countries.

    The ACi is an exciting programme in many ways: Covering five different countries overall, also including Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Mozambique, it aims to achieve large-scale impact. Specifically, it is committed to achieving a 50% increase in productivity and additional annual income of at least US$100 for 150,000 cashew farmers, tripling current processing volumes, and creating 5,500 jobs in the processing industry by 2013.

    The ACi is also pioneering a formalised co-funding and implementation structure that involves various public and private partners, as well as development organisations among its funders and implementers. As such, the ACi offers many interesting insights and lessons from its own, programme-specific experience in:

    • managing multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral partnerships,
    • working with new partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
    • and experimenting with different approaches to results measurement.

    While its innovative co-funding and implementation approach is considered by ACi as a critical factor in addressing the dominant position of Asian companies in the cashew processing sector, it appears that the complexities and transaction costs involved in its management were underestimated at the design stage. As a result, the programme is now planning for a more streamlined structure for its next phase. In the case of ACi, the need for flexibility, understanding and mutual learning, proved to be key challenges for the lead implementing agency GIZ and all other stakeholders. For GIZ, this included building relationships with a relatively new funder, BMGF, and public and private sector actors from all over the world. Bridging cultural differences and reaching common ground on diverging approaches, such as in measuring results, required open communication and management of expectations. This, however, also served as a basis for a fruitful exchange of ideas and knowledge.

    Beyond this, at the programmatic level, the ACi also illustrates some of the constraints faced in:
    • moving from a more production focused to an integrated, sustainable, market-driven approach, and
    • in enabling African smallholders to compete in global agricultural commodity markets.

    Some promising results are emerging in Ghana: for example, more than 37,000 farmers (240,000 for all ACi countries; numbers provided by ACi) have been trained in good harvest and post-harvest practices, high-yield planting material is being multiplied, and new processing plants have started operating. However, an analysis of possible local private sector partners, who could scale up and take over the programme’s activities, illustrates some of the key difficulties that smaller and younger players in the cashew market may face. Here, a longer time frame may be required for the private sector to provide the services that farmers need, and for the cashew sector to add value to the economy. This will also depend on bigger, underlying questions regarding the competitiveness of countries like Ghana relative to established market players like India and Vietnam. For example, it seems that energy and transport cost differences have not yet been sufficiently accounted for by the ACi, and require more research going forward.

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