More sustainable cashew nuts from Benin
The Boni cashew nuts in our stores originate from Benin. In 2019, we have started up an international chain project there in cooperation with the Belgian Development Agency Enabel. We work closely with an organisation that unites 158 cooperatives of local cashew producers and with a local processing company.
Cashew nuts: healthy and nutritious
Cashew nuts are delicious, healthy and popular. They are high in minerals, vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids. Benin is known for producing this delicacy. The Belgian Development Agency Enabel has long been active in the land and helps Benin to improve its agricultural production to make the independent food supply more sustainable and to contribute to the economic and social development. In 2019, we joined forces for the creation of a chain for cashew nuts, in which Enabel co-workers are responsible for the coordination on the field.
cashew producers with whom we work together directly in 2022
Sourcing from local producers of cashew nuts
The objective of the chain? To provide maximal added value to the local producers through direct cooperation and also to create value and employment locally by having the first processing done in the country. We source our cashew nuts from the ‘Union Régional des coopératives de producteurs d’anacarde des départements de l’Atacora et la Donga’ (URCPA-AD). It unites thousands of local cashew producers and is active in villages in the regions Donga and Atacora. For the initial processing of the nuts (removing the shells and membranes from around the nuts), we work together with a local processing business that guarantees good and safe working conditions for the co-workers - mostly women.
Cashew nuts harvests: a bumpy track
The first harvest took place in 2019 and in March 2020 the first Boni cashew nuts of this chain project could be found on the shelves of our Colruyt and Okay stores. However, the collaboration with the cashew producers has its ups and downs: it is not easy to organise the coordination of sourcing and get everyone on the same wavelength. It is our intention to purchase a fixed volume of cashew nuts from the cooperation every year, at a fair price. But many farmers prefer immediately available income over our long-term agreements and often sell their harvests to other 'wholesale buyers'. In that case, we purchase the remainder of the needed nuts from other producer groups in Benin. For the 2021 harvest (now available in the stores), we managed to purchase about 64 % of our required volume from cooperatives that are receiving support from URCPA and Enabel.
To enhance the collaboration and gradually install the necessary trust, we have invested in various measures over the past years: a new price mechanism in function of the quality, a weekly meeting with all involved parties during the harvesting season (from February to May), prefinancing of the processing business that purchases the nuts, etc. There's still work to be done and we continue to invest in the cooperation with all partners with a view to building a sustainable long-term relationship. In time, we also want to source our organic Boni cashew nuts from Benin and sell them in our stores as from 2023.
Enabel also supports the cooperatives by involving agricultural advisers (who teach farmers better cultivation techniques to improve the productivity and quality) and by purchasing equipment such as a pruning machine and tricycles to harvest cashews in areas that are hard to reach.
Collibri Foundation education project
In addition to the chain project, we also support an education project of Eclosio in Benin with our Collibri Foundation. For three years, 120 youngsters receive an agricultural entrepreneur training programme. The youngsters receive coaching and learn how to make their orchard more ecological and productive. The PESoC project (Promotion de l’entrepreneuriat des Jeunes et Soutien à la Production du Cajou) runs in Natitingou en Toucountouna, two municipalities in Benin. In time, the intention is to integrate the production of these young farmers into the chain project.