The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) commemorates World Food Day, by taking time to honor our core programming – agriculture. Like the famous African American inventor of peanut butter, George Washington Carver, USADF also believes, “…we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable.” And like Carver, we are nuts for the nut value chains that our partners have cracked across the African continent.
For the poor farmer, the reliance on feeding one’s community keeps agriculture at the core of USADF’s work. With over 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land in Africa – creating pathways to prosperity through agriculture is a sound and practical investment. Africa is home to a multitude of nuts ranging from avocado and bambara nut, shea and palm nuts, to cashews and good ole’ peanuts (groundnut) – and USADF has invested significantly in these value chains.
For example, in Benin, our partners have successfully cracked the nut on the shea almonds nuts. Shea nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, and the seed is rich in a mixture of edible oils and fats known as shea butter – a crucial nutritional resource for millions of rural households.
USADF has invested in the Association of Karite Benin (AKB), a women’s cooperative of 112 women’s groups (with some 7,900 members) to train their members to improve the quality, enhance storage processing, and increase the cooperative’s marketing reach. Already they have increased the price received by the women by some 30 percent, and AKB plans to build 15 storage facilities of 100 tons each in some areas of high production in order to build the capacity to obtain more shea nuts.
In South Sudan, USADF is partnering with Amimbaru Paste Processing Cooperative Society (APP) to process locally sourced peanuts into peanut butter. With our investment, they plan to purchase peanuts from member and non-member farmers, make peanut paste using a modern pressing machine, and package it for sale. In addition to providing an affordable nutritional staple for local and regional consumption, these farmers are building their understanding of modern agricultural machinery, applying agricultural best practices, and improving their business and financial management skills.
Finally, we highlight the enterprising women of Djiyito Di Malaguene in Senegal. They have raised the bar on the cashew nut by innovating around the cashew fruit, transforming it into “vegan meat.”
Most of us are familiar with cashew nuts but fewer people are aware of the cashew fruit or cashew apple to which the nut is attached. The cashew fruit is often discarded once the crescent-like nut at the bottom of the fruit is picked and processed into the delicious edible snack that we love. Apart from the nuts, the cashew fruit has been used to produce juice, creating new economic opportunities and an additional source of income for cashew farmers and small-scale cashew nut processors.
Djiyito processes the cashew apple by removing the acid, and using the processed cashew apple as a meat substitute, aka the “cashew apple meat”. This non-meat alternative is a good substitute for those who follow a vegan, vegetarian, or a plant-based diet, and come in many forms, including cashew apple “brochettes” and a specialty-blended fresh fruit salad.
Three very different partners, illustrating various parts of the nut value chain. USADF is proud to spotlight these partners on World Food Day as they all demonstrate the diversity of the nuttiest value chain, as well as the innovation it takes for farmers to put food on the tables of African families across the continent.