Organized by the actors of the cashew sector in Mali in collaboration with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), the Sahelian Cashew Forum (FOCAS), a new event concept on the cashew sector in the West African sub-region, was at its second edition from 5 to 7 August 2019 in Bamako, MALI. The purpose of this conference is to promote sharing and cooperation in improving the competitiveness of the cashew value chain in Sahelian countries.
Various actors from the public and private sectors of the cashew industry of Benin, Burkina-Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bisseau, Ghana, Mali and Senegal, as well as Technical and Financial Partners (PTF), NGOs in the West African sub-region, including TechnoServe, which implements the BeninCajù project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), participated in this edition, which discussed the theme: "Improving the competitiveness of the cashew value chain in Sahelian countries ".
A crucible of sharing between actors in the cashew sector, the 2019 edition of FOCAS was mostly furnished with discussions panels relating to key sub-themes including:
* the evolution of cashew production in the Sahel region: state of play, potential and market trends; * the importance of KOR (quality measurement of cashew nuts) for marketing;
* Economic opportunities of local processing of cashew nuts: how to make processing more competitive in the Sahel: add value to the cashew sector, following the example of Malian industry; * How to organize the private-public dialogue, create a common framework for the good governance of the sector, and set up a system of regulation of the cashew nut sector.
All these sub-topics have been developed with a compass for benchmarking the experiences of Mali, Burkina-Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Côte d'Ivoire. Derivatives exhibition and a visit to a large plantation of cashew trees were also key stages of FOCAS 2019. Indeed, this field visit allowed participants to see the exploits of Tidjiane Traoré, a former migrant who became an example of success in cashew:
* At least 8 varieties of cashew trees have been planted;
* Heavy machinery present on the domain;
* Tidjiane plantation is not a family business, but a big initiative that employs more than 100 permanent employees;
* The estate was bought with the support of the banks;
The next step considered by the promoter is the installation of a cashew processing unit.
The example of this farmer is a case study and corroborates the reliability of this sector for access to financing.
On the initiative of the Benin delegation, a side-meeting was held after the official closing of FOCAS. It brought together the Beninese delegation, that of ACA, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau for a brainstorming on the need to help countries that do not yet have an inter-profession committee to dispose of it.
At the end of BeninCajù's mission at this conference, it is expected that the knowledge base of players in the cashew sector in Benin will be strengthened with an opportunity to exchange experiences for the improvement of policies and actions development of this value chain in Benin. The appointment is made for the 2020 edition of FOCAS in Guinea-Bissau.