Posted by: reapcanadainternblog | June 18, 2013

Cashew nut production and processing – from trees to treats

Project objective: Enhancing Sustainable Economic Development Through Value Added Processing & Market Access

One of the livelihood diversification strategies of the SAEV project is to introduce fruit and nut trees in the beneficiary villages. There is a strong dependence on rainy season field crops and the lack of edible trees in the community makes a strong case for both improving income generation opportunity and household food security.

Currently, the CLCOP nursery is selecting and preparing tree seedlings for distribution in August. One of them is cashew tree. The local climate is favourable for cashew production and the processed nuts sell at premium price both in rural and urban markets. Also, cashew nut processing work is often done by women – an interesting income generating opportunities particularly for women.

While tree seedlings are being prepared, I found a women’s economic interest group (Groupement d’Intérêt Économique in French, GIE) called Bokk Diom who are successfully operating and marketing processed cashew nuts at Passy in Fatick region (about 40 km away from Wack Ngouna). The GIE of Bokk Diom has been operating since 1987 and has over 35 active women members. Their organization (and their product) has been recognized by both regional and national “prix d’excellence” and their products are sold in Dakar and in other various urban regions in Sénégal. To learn from their successful experience, I visited the GIE as well as the Federation of cashew planters and producers of Sénégal (also in Passy) and several cashew orchards. The main objective of this visit was to learn through field observation and experience (by actively participating in the processing work) from a well established women’s self-help group as a mentoring partner for the SAEV project women groups.

Working with women members at Bbok Diom was an eye-opening experience. The processing work is laborious and can be harsh to your body: firing oil-rich nut shells and cracking them by hand and close proximity to smoke are all risks that one must assume in this work. Also, cashew shell oil contains high levels of anacardic acid and it burns instantly on skin (I learned the hard way). Women wear gloves but they don’t last long against hot oil and acid. Something should be done to protect them better. On average, each member works over 8 hours to process 10 to 15 kg of nuts a day. A tremendous patience and concentration…

Here is a visual journey of cashew nut transformation and processing.


Pic. 1. Cashew orchard


Pic. 2. Cashew fruit and nut


Pic. 3. Cashew varieties – Costa Rica (L) and Benin (R)


Pic. 4. Traditional roasting pan (using cashew shells as combustible)


Pic. 5 & 6. Hot and smokey operation


Pic. 7. After first roasting


Pic. 8. Cracking by hand


Pic. 9 & 10. Second roasting using traditional fire oven


Pic. 11. Removing cashew (inner) peel


Pic. 12. Ready for packaging


Pic. 13. Three stages of transformation – Nuts in shells (Top), unpeeled nuts (Right) and roasted and clean nuts (Left)

*Photo credit: Sung Kyu Kim


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