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Gender and policies in the cashew sector

The cashew sector, much like agriculture as a whole, has traditionally involved the participation of men and women, youth and adults. Although cashew, in the past, was not given much focus as an economic crop, it has become an area of interest, especially in the last decade and a half, as its economic benefits have been discovered.

For instance, the African cashew sector raked in about $196 million in revenue in 2017, and cashew contributed about 53 per cent of Ghana’s non-traditional tree crop export in 2018. The annual global demand for cashew has also been consistently increasing by 7-10% over the last ten years. In 2018, Africa contributed 57 per cent of global cashew production.

With its increasing demand, the cashew sector presents many employment and stable income opportunities for all, especially rural women. The cashew sector currently employs thousands of women across the value chain, but there are still specific challenges that reinforce gender gaps and prevent women from accessing the opportunities available in the sector. Social and cultural beliefs that indirectly limit women’s access to education, land, capital, as well as unpaid domestic work that reduces women’s time for income-generating activity, are a few of these challenges.

Another key challenge is the general absence of strong gender-specific policies to close gender gaps within the cashew sector. Over the years, efforts have been made in various cashew-producing countries to resolve some of the needs of the underprivileged in the development of cashew sector policies.

Strategies have been planned to promote income-generating activities for women and young people. For example, at the government level, Burkina Faso demonstrates this in its national vision of an agricultural sector held by women and youth. In Benin, gender mainstreaming is being done in cross-cutting activities.

Other value chain actors are also increasingly making conscious attempts at mainstreaming gender in their outfits. Several processing plants in the sub-region have demonstrated this by implementing policies such as non-discrimination related to gender in remuneration and other socio-professional benefits. Others include the separation of toilets and showers, provision of canteens, day care centres, study halls and vocational training for both male and female staff.

Current involvement of women in the cashew value chain

While the proactive action by the private sector is commendable, there is still a need for gender regulatory policies from government.

In the production of cashew, a significant number of women are involved in harvest and post-harvest activities. In view of this strong presence of women in these production-related activities, a study revealed that training tools were naturally developed to include women. In Ghana and Benin, beekeeping projects introduced on cashew orchards are also carried out mostly by women.

In recent times, women have also been heavily involved in grafting, thus the production of improved planting material. Nursery managers have expressed preference for female grafters over male, as the success rate of seedlings has been observed to be higher when grafting is done by the former. In spite of this observed expertise of women which culminates in the increase of quality and quantity of cashew produced locally, hardly any women own nurseries in Ghana and the sub-region.

Source: Myjoyonline

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