of cashews are produced by Côte d’Ivoire every year, reducing native forests, devastating wildlife habitats, and replacing traditional food crops.
FROM THE TREE TO YOUR HOME
Native trees and bushes are cleared to make space for cashew trees.
Cashew trees are planted and maintained by farmers. Agrochemicals are often used to boost growth and kill crop diseases.
Once ripe, cashew apples are collected by farmers and the raw cashew nut is removed from the fruit.
buy raw cashew nuts from farmers where they are air dried for three to four days, sorted for size and quality, then stored in warehouses.
buy raw cashew nuts in bulk to be processed.
21.5% of Ivorian cashews are processed locally. Raw cashew nuts are roasted, then manually or mechanically de-shelled, before being sorted and packaged.
78.5% of Côte d'Ivoire's cashews are processed abroad, mostly in Vietnam and India before being re-exported to consuming countries.
Processed cashew nuts are transported to consuming countries. The US and Europe account for ~2/3 of the global consumer market.
Cashews are re-packaged and branded by retailers, to be sold domestically or re-exported for international retail.
Ivorian cashews make their way onto supermarket shelves across the world, including:
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
Cashew farming has spread rapidly across the northern dry forests of Côte d’Ivoire. Cashew farms now occupy 1.6 million hectares of land - nearly equivalent to the size of Hawaii. In some cashew growing areas, up to 25% of native dry forest has disappeared in less than four years.
The dry forests of northern Côte d’Ivoire make up a unique ecosystem. But cashew trees have replaced native vegetation across the region, threatening wildlife habitats and protected areas. The Comoé National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to the critically endangered Western Chimpanzee, is now virtually encircled by cashew plantations.
Cashew farmers use pesticides to control crop diseases and pest outbreaks, but these chemicals seep into soils and groundwater, polluting native ecosystems and harming wildlife. Recent farmer training schemes have met with some success in reducing the use of agrichemicals, but the overuse of pesticides has resulted in lasting harm to the environment.
While initially boosting economic growth in historically poorer parts of the country, the recent explosion of cashew farming has generated an oversupply of the crop, creating a glut and depressing cashew sales. The result has been a “boom to bust” scenario, with dire consequences for individual households and rural businesses.
Thousands of farmers in northern Côte d’Ivoire have shifted away from growing traditional food crops to producing cashew as a commercial crop. While this has boosted rural incomes across the region, it has left household diets at the mercy of the market. When cashew prices collapse, as in early 2023, families can’t afford to buy staple foods, leaving them vulnerable to hunger.
When raw cashew nuts are roasted, they release a caustic oil. Workers manually de-shelling cashew nuts are exposed to this hazardous substance, which can cause painful burns and injuries to peoples’ nails, hands and forearms. This work is mainly done by women, often without access to protective equipment, who endure these injuries to earn an income.
Cashew traders and retailers need to work with local authorities, NGOs, academic experts, cashew cooperatives and farmers’ organizations to develop and implement a national action plan for Côte d’Ivoire to break up cashew monocultures and restore degraded landscapes. Areas of action should include:
1. FULL CASHEW TRACEABILITY
Rapidly roll-out full ‘farm-to-shelf’ traceability systems so companies buying and selling cashew understand the origin of the nuts they are buying.
2. PROTECT BIODIVERSITY
Commit to halting the expansion of cashew production into native ecosystems and publish time-bound action plans for sourcing sustainable cashews
3. CROP AND INCOME DIVERSIFICATION
Develop a strategy to help households in northern Côte d’Ivoire reduce dependency on cashew through crop and income diversification schemes for small farmers.
4. RESTORE DEGRADED HABITATS
Identify areas for forest restoration, especially in areas of critical importance for wildlife, and develop a nature regeneration plan involving local communities.
5. INVEST IN RESEARCH
Provide funding for research into sustainable cashew farming and landscape restoration.
6. CONSUMER COUNTRY REGULATIONS
Ban the import or sale of cashews linked to deforestation in consumer markets such as the US, EU and UK.
Unfortunately, cashew cultivation causes animals to flee and plant species to disappear. Even medicinal plants are becoming increasingly rare because the environment is threatened with the abusive use of pesticides.
— Dramane, a farmer from Hambol, a cashew growing region of northern Côte d’Ivoire
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