Bringing the cash back into Mozambique's cashew sector
Mozambique's cashew industry is one of the biggest in the world. Cashew is a cash crop and contributes significantly to the country's economy. However, the sector operates far below its potential. Low productivity of trees, poor quality of nuts, scarce investments in orchards, inefficient agricultural practices, weak value chains and lack of strong market linkages are some of the challenges faced by the cashew industry in Mozambique. Small-scale farmers are dependent on export for survival and the COVID-19 pandemic, as with other agricultural products, impacted cashew exports significantly, adding to farmers’ woes.
In 2017, the Government of Mozambique’s Institute for the Promotion of Cashew (INCAJU) partnered with Cropin to initiate a project to tackle the issues faced by the cashew agricultural sector. Cropin’s intervention includes advisories adapted to the local context, piloting and scaling digital solutions to local needs, capacity building and training, and knowledge management. The project, enabled by end-to-end digitization, improved the productivity and profits of 180,000 smallholder farmers in the cashew sector.
The challenges that stagnate growth
The Mozambique cashew industry faces multiple issues which impact smallholder farmers the most. Poor accessibility to extension services and lack of both inputs and vigorous seedlings to promote new plantations have led to low yields and inferior nut quality. Inadequate climate and weather advisories during the sowing and cropping season have led to increased crop stress and added costs for farmers. Farmers are ill-equipped to monitor crops and prevent pest infestation and disease. There is a limited collaboration among various stakeholders of the cashew value chain. All of the above collectively contribute to reduced yields, lower profits, and an overall decline in the cashew sector.
Kickstarting growth in Mozambique's cashew sector
INCAJU, with Technoserve, works to improve the quality and productivity of the cashew value chain in Mozambique. The partnership targeted to minimize pest and weather-related losses; increase new plantations by supplying seedlings and providing planting recommendations; and digitize farms, farmers’ data, and other related records; while enabling farmers to adopt sustainable best practices and climate-smart agricultural practices. To make this possible, INCAJU/Technoserv aimed to bring traceability to the cashew value chain, improve trade opportunities for farmers, and actively involve all participants, including cooperatives, nurseries, and other service providers in the process.
To achieve the above objectives, INCAJU/Technoserv decided to leverage technology, for which Cropin was the chosen partner. The focus of the INCAJU-Cropin project was the digitalization of the cashew agricultural chain. Cropin piloted digital solutions and scaled them across the target area. Multilingual support was part of the process that eased the adoption of the solutions in the local context. It enabled accurate yield prediction for every harvest, which helped in a seamless integration of the production chain.
The project aimed to monitor produce from 'Tree-to-Trade. Data on farmers and land under cashew cultivation were uploaded on the secure digital platform. Geospatial imaging and geo-tagging of land allowed to accurately map the location of agricultural land and crops and constantly monitor them. Digitization helped achieve 100 percent traceability and transparency as it tracked each stage of development in the crop lifecycle — right from the sowing of seeds to the output reaching the buyer.
The production of cashew seedling clones in the nursery, their survival rate, availability, and performance were closely monitored through the platform, which also controlled the pilferage of seedlings and averted low-quality inputs from reaching farmers. The Cropin platform shared advisories on seedlings best suited for the farms and Package of Practices. As data capturing was done at all phases of cultivation, it served as proof of compliance to the Package of Practices.
Intuitive dashboards powered the implementation of preventive measures if necessary — such as in case of a pest infestation or disease outbreak. The field team trained the farmers on how to use the platform. For example, the weather-based advisory educates the cashew farmer on managing their farms based on climate-smart agricultural principles. An improved collaboration was achieved between various players in the cashew value chain.
The INCAJU-Cropin project built capacity and trained 98 field officers to ensure that farmers adopted the digital platform. Field officers also received user manuals, regular product feature update alerts, reports and insights. Cropin collected data and monitored it to check platform activation by farmers. It enabled two-way communication between farmers and extension team members and drove farmer engagement. Collected data has been organized efficiently to ensure easy access.
Charting a new course
The INCAJU-Cropin project facilitated the complete digitization of agricultural processes for 180,000 farmers in the cashew sector. The project was started with 50,000 farmers in the first year and gradually scaled to 180,000 in three years. A pool of 98 extension team members was trained to carry out the digitization and support farmers. Farming land and crop profiles were digitized. Healthy and disease-free seedlings were distributed, and training was provided to farmers on efficient planting and monitoring of seedlings. Protocols and standards were set for end-to-end farm operations and followed strictly from requisition and approval to delivery and proper accounting.
The digitization, farmer training, and protocols led to predictability in cashew output. It helped streamline functions down the production chain and supported INCAJU to offer better advisories. Trust and traceability led to better program management and increased the scope of participation of input service providers, spraying entrepreneurs, cooperatives, and other stakeholders across three of the major cashew growing districts. The project, which has been operational for three years, has the potential to be scaled up to impact 2 million farmers of Mozambique in the future.