This edition’s story from Togo highlights cashew, which might be considered a niche crop. Our Script of the week also focuses on cashew.
Niche crops are specialized crops for which there is a very particular but limited market. Because the market is limited, it’s not a good idea for a farmer to grow for a niche market if many other farmers could easily enter as well. So a really good niche market is one where there is some kind of a barrier to entry. For example, a crop might require a very specialized climate, or the crop may need many years to mature.
It’s also not a good idea to enter a niche market which is dominated by a larger and better-financed group, because you will likely be undersold and driven out of business. Also, to enter niche markets for export crops, it is very important to have connections to larger international organizations, as this script will show.
One niche crop that some small-scale farmers can successfully grow is cashews. In Tanzania and other African countries, cashews are mainly grown by small farmers on small parcels of land. In Tanzania, they are mainly grown in the coastal lowlands. Various problems, including plant diseases and worsening market conditions, have greatly hurt the Tanzanian cashew industry in recent years. But, over the last decade, cashews have made a comeback in Tanzania.
As the script details, there are various things which can help growers make a profit by growing cashews, including belonging to an effective farmers’ group, following best management practices, and collaborating with other parts of the cashew industry, including processors.
This script tells of a successful collaboration between a cashew farmers’ group in southern Tanzania, an international NGO, and a cashew processor. The collaboration was still in its early years when this script was published in 2007, but working together with the larger supply chain—from farmer to processor—was bringing the farmers improved incomes, greater security, and hope for the future.