The cashew industry in Ghana has big potential, generating US$244 million in 2016/17. ADRA Ghana, supported by the European Union and ADRA-UK aims to improve the livelihoods of 14,500 cashew farmers, nut pickers and others involved in the value chain, in the Bono, Bono East and Ashanti regions.
The Bono Asante Atea Project ('Atea' means cashew in Twi) is now in its second year with the cashew harvest taking place from January and April. Darja Markek, ADRA-UK Programmes Officer, and Sarah Shepley, Newbold Year in Mission Student visited the project to see the work being done on the ground.
The following is Sarah's blog as she shares her experiences on the trip:
Day 1: Thursday 23 January
On arrival to Accra, the capital of Ghana, my first impression was that it is very humid.
Day 2: Friday 24 January
Today I visited the ADRA Ghana office where I learned that they primarily focus on the improvement and sustainability of livelihoods. I also learned that most of the cashews produced were going to be exported in order to bring in foreign exchange which would help to support the farmers' incomes and others connected in the value chain.
Impression 2: They serve a lot of spicy food.
Day 3: Saturday 25January
As it was Saturday, we attended the Prince Emmanuel Central Adventist church. The message was a good one, as it reminded us that keeping the Sabbath is very important. I liked how the pastor gathered all the visitors together at the end of the service.
Impression 3: I felt very welcome.
Day 4: Sunday 26January
Today Darja and I visited Cape Coast Castle where I witnessed the conditions of the dungeons where the slaves were kept before being shipped off to sugar cane plantations. I was deeply moved in seeing the chains and a diagram showcasing the positioning of the slaves on the ships and of course the Door of No Return.
Shortly afterwards we visited Kakum National Park, where I faced my fears and did a tree canopy walk. We could see beautiful vegetation.
Impression 4: It's so sad how such lovely architecture was used to do such horrible injustices.
Day 5: Monday 27January
Today we woke up at 6 am to make our six-hour journey north of Accra to arrive in Wenchi. It was a long drive, but we soon arrived in the Ejura Municipality where we attended a meeting with the Department of Agriculture. Here we were introduced to using Survey 123, a mapping software to help monitor the cashew farms, I thought that this was very impressive. I saw my first cashew of the trip and I felt very excited.
Impression 5: Everyone is up very early.
Day 6: Tuesday 28February
Today Darja, I and some ADRA-Ghana staff attended a ceremony where tricycles and beehive equipment were handed over to farmers involved in the project. The ceremony was mostly in Twi with some translation into English. It was apparent that everyone seemed very grateful for the European Union's and ADRA's support in the Bono Asante Atea (BAAT) Project.
Impression 6: Ghana is very dusty.
Day 7: Wednesday 29 January
Today we visited Jaman North District and the town of Sampa (bordering the Ivory Coast), where we attended a nut picking training. It seemed as if the farmers were interested and engaging well with what was being said and shown. Next, we had a meeting with a focus group of existing farmers, who had received some previous training from ADRA Ghana. We learned of some of the benefits and challenges that the farmers faced, including picking nuts infrequently makes them rot, and lizards eating and ants scaring away the bees from the beehives.
Impression 7: The main challenge is lack of equipment.
Day 8: Thursday 30 January
Today we visited many different farms including demonstration plots, existing farmers' farms and new farmers' farms. It was great to meet the owners of each of the farms and to see the differences between the different farms. It was clear that some farms were quickly adopting the new agronomic practices whereas some still had their suspicious on the use of fertilizers.
Impression 8:I think I would struggle to grow my own cashews
Day 9: Friday 31 January
Today was a very busy day, where we visited two focus groups and an entrepreneur that had received a tricycle from the project. Today we also broke down on the road – twice! First, we had a puncture on the right back wheel. It was lucky that we were travelling with two cars. This meant we could keep going, whilst the other car had to be taken away to be repaired. Then the car broke down for a second time. This time it was the gearbox that failed. Thankfully we had just entered the city of Kumasi before the incident. Kumasi is also known for its car mechanics, so we were in very good hands. We were so grateful for finally arriving at the hotel.
Impression 9: Travelling long distances in Ghana without breaking down can't be taken for granted.