IRD and Peace Corps Collaborate on Senegambia
The Gambia River Basin Cashew Value Chain Enhancement Project (CEP) aims to strengthen the cashew value chain and increase the incomes of 10,000 smallholder cashew farmers and processors in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. The project helps to improve food security by providing agricultural and business training to cashew farmers, recommending varieties for planting and improved cultivation techniques, improving marketing arrangements, promoting the nutritional value of cashew, and introducing small scale processing units to increase local value-addition efforts.
“By having USDA and Peace Corps resources pooled towards a common goal of increasing farmer livelihoods, IRD’s development efforts are more sustainable and benefits are maximized.” - Jo Anne Yeager Sallah, IRD Country Director, The Gambia
IRD Gambia and Senegal Country Director Jo Anne Yeager Sallah – who served in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer – recognized an opportunity to engage the energy and creativity of Peace Corps volunteers to advance CEP’s objectives from the get-go. Beginning in 2009, Peace Corps volunteers helped identify dynamic cashew growing villages and then served in the pilot villages used to refine project training materials. Volunteers also work alongside IRD staff to introduce business training to local cashew processors, helping them increase value locally, whenever possible, rather than only exporting the raw cashew nuts for processing abroad.
Peace Corps volunteers helped develop CEP’s training manual and related training materials used in the farmer field schools that have been conducted in over 350 villages. Cashew Business Basics, published collaboratively (in English, French, and Portuguese) by IRD, the Peace Corps, and the African Cashew Alliance is another result of this partnership. In recognition of the contribution that Peace Corps Volunteers can make in supporting CEP, IRD staff trained 25 Peace Corps volunteers from Senegal and The Gambia, along with agricultural extension agents, in the CEP approach, in June 2012. In addition to the focus on cashew, the general approach of value chain development and its associated links with understanding of market dynamics, organizing for collective sales, and supporting entrepreneurship, the Peace Corps volunteers have expressed their excitement about working with IRD and cashew farmers.
The majority of volunteers attending the training are first-year volunteers, newly installed at their sites, meaning that they will be able to use IRD’s approach over the full length of their service. Designed to support sustainable value chain development at the village level, IRD has provided basic skills to the volunteers to support the continued growth of a dynamic private-sector-driven cashew value chain in the subregion.
As a result of the outreach, training, and other project efforts, beneficiary farmers have an improvement in nut quality and most importantly, they have realized an increase in income, from US$472 to US$822 per harvest. IRD anticipates that the CEP follow-on project will both expand coverage into additional areas of the subregion and offer an opportunity to strengthen the powerful linkages between implementers, the private sector, USDA, and the Peace Corps that have so successfully enhanced farmer skills and increased the impact and reach of this important work.