Ghana’s food security threatened by expanding cashew production

Over at least the last decade, one of Ghana’s most vital breadbaskets has been converted into cashew nut production to feed export markets. The Bono East, Bono and Ahafo regions –previously known as the Brong Ahafo region– are being transformed by cashew production. This growth has positioned Ghana as one of the largest producers of raw cashew nuts in Africa.

Cashew nut production has increased fourfold across the continent since 2000. In Ghana, a number of social, economic and political circumstances in Ghana have enabled spectacular expansion.

For a start, there has been strong government support as well as backing from international donors. Organisations such as USAID and the Gates Foundation have also been instrumental in Ghana’s cashew sector expansion. This has included sponsored initiatives aimed at increasing production.

Over 98% of Ghana’s cashew nuts are exported in their raw form to India and Vietnam. Here the nuts are processed and re-exported to the US, Europe, the Middle East, China and Australia.

Globally, demand for cashew nuts has grown at around 7% each year. On this basis, cashew is predicted to represent 29% of the global nut market by 2021.

A challenge for food security
In Ghana, the expansion of cashew production for export markets is championed as part of its plan for agricultural development but it poses potential challenges at the local level, particularly around food security. The conversion of fertile land into cash crop production –and the transformation of Ghana’s breadbasket into cashew exporter– presents significant challenges for ensuring long-term food security in Ghana.

Ghana has, in recent years, relied on ad hoc programmes to drive domestic food security. But most of these programmes have not achieved effective results. This is partly due to the dominance of short-term approaches. One such programme is Planting for Food and Jobs, an initiative launched in April 2017 by President Nana Akufo-Addo. The programme was designed to enhance food security and create job opportunities. But critics argue it is an assemblage of old policy interventions that have largely failed.

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