Burkina Faso to host 3rd Edition of FOCAS in November 2023: What you need to know

West Africa produces a vast majority of global cashews. The subregion produces about 50% of the world's raw cashew nuts (RCNs), hence its role in the sustainability of the global cashew industry cannot be underestimated. As a tropical tree crop with some level of resistance to drought, cashew does better in the Sahel region compared to other tree crops. This explains why Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal are all significant producers of RCNs, with Nigeria being the third largest producer in Africa behind Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania. This also explains why cashew is an important economic crop in the region, with the industry employing and serving as a major source of direct income for millions of people, contributing to reducing poverty, especially among women and youth, while also serving as a major source of revenue generation for governments.  

The cashew sector in the Sahel region is however confronted with several challenges, some of which are very common among Sahelian countries. They include low productivity and quality resulting from limited use of improved cashew planting materials, poor agricultural practices, pest and disease, among others as cashew yield remains below potential; processing challenges like high cost of processing, low efficiency, lack of reliable capital, technological and technical deficiencies among others; infrastructure and financing challenges including inadequate warehouses; transport and logistical challenges; lack of comprehensive and well-coordinated research; and policy deficiencies, especially in cross border trading among these countries, some of which are landlocked.

The Sahelian Cashew Forum (FOCAS) was introduced in 2018 by the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) and its partners as a platform that allows actors, and major stakeholders of the cashew industry in the Sahel region to meet and deliberate on the common challenges they face and together propose solutions. FOCAS offers a unique platform for dialogue, sharing best practices, stimulating partnerships, defining joint strategies, mobilizing resources and promoting expertise among cashew producing countries in the Sahel region. The first edition of this forum was held in Burkina Faso in 2018 while second edition took place in Bamako, in Mali in 2019. FOCAS has not been held since 2019 due to the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic in 2020 and its subsequent devastating effects.    

The 3rd Edition of FOCAS

After a three-year break, the FOCAS makes a return in 2023. The 3rd Edition of the Sahelian Cashew Forum (FOCAS) will be held from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 9th November 2023 at the Maison de le Culture de Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. This year’s Edition will be organized by the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) and the Comité Interprofessionnel de l'Anacarde du Burkina Faso (CIAB) in collaboration with the Conseil Burkinabé de l’Anacarde (CBA). Over 500 people from several Sahelian countries are expected to participate in this grand return of FOCAS.

This Edition of FOCAS will be on the theme, Vulgarization of Scientific Research Results and Availability of High-yielding Planting Materials: Synergy of Actions Among Sahelian Countries. The forum seeks to facilitate the sharing of experience among Sahelian cashew producing countries and to provide food for thought on the best ways to properly organize and support the industry for the benefit of all actors. The theme focuses on two important aspects: the popularisation of scientific research and the availability of high-yielding planting materials, with a specific focus on the synergy of actions between Sahelian countries.

There will be three sessions at this year’s FOCAS with several local and international cashew experts, researchers and experienced industry players as moderators and speakers. The first session will be held after the opening ceremony on 7th November 2023 on the topic, Bridging the Productivity Gap in the Sahelian Cashew Industry: Advancements in Developing improved planting materials. This panel will discuss the problem of low productivity in the Sahel region and look at what research findings are available to deal with this challenge and the possibility of developing improved planting materials to address this challenge. Other important discussion areas of this session include sustainable methods and tactics to increase production, cashew pest and disease management, building and maintaining strong public-private partnerships and the economic and social impact of improved productivity.

There will be two sessions on Day 2 (8th November 2023). The first one will be on the topic, National Quality Standards for Raw Cashew Nuts (RCNs) and Kernels in the Sahelian Landlocked Countries: Growing a Flawless integration/Reputation into the Global Cashew Market. This session will focus on the need to establish and enforce national quality standards for cashews in landlocked countries. Panelists will review how cashew quality can be enhanced through easy transportation of RCNs through landlocked countries as well as maintaining consistent high-quality products that meet global demand. Other areas of discussion include the importance of quality standards and defining quality parameters, food safety and certification, technical capacity training and market access and trade exchange.

The final session will be on the topic, Reliable Statistical Data in Programme Development for the Cashew Industry. This panel will provide the platform for exchanging knowledge, experience and best practices in ensuring reliable data collection, storage, protection and use in the cashew sector to promote informed decisions, formulation and implementation of programs. Areas for discussion include the importance of statistical data, setting up a data collection system, standardization and normalization and technological innovation.

This year’s FOCAS will be held alongside the 2nd Edition of the Promotional Day for Burkina Faso cashew nut products. There will therefore be the exhibition of various locally produced cashew products. This is to promote the consumption of cashew products in Burkina Faso. It offers the opportunity to discover, taste and celebrate the richness of cashew nuts in Burkina Faso.

There will also be a field visit to Tagsnere, a cashew processing factory in Bobo-Dioulasso to give participants firsthand experience of cashew processing.

“FOCAS is a unique forum because it addresses directly the challenges and needs of the cashew sector in the Sahel region. Through this forum, we hope to develop a strong collaboration among the interprofessions of the various countries in the Sahel region. The forum will also identify and discuss the causes and consequences of obstacles to increased production, processing, and marketing of cashew in the Sahel region, propose short-, medium- and long-term solutions and an implementation roadmap,” Managing Director of the ACA, Ernest Mintah, said.  

“We are excited about this year’s FOCAS because it is a powerful platform for us and other cashew producing countries in the Sahel. Particularly because Burkina Faso is also preparing to host the 18th Edition of the ACA Annual Cashew Conference and Expo next year. Together with our partners, we are putting all the necessary arrangements in place for a successful FOCAS in November and the ACA Conference in 2024,” the President of CIAB, Ibrahim Sanfo, highlighted.

Sponsorship and participation

FOCAS attracts both local and international participants, especially cashew actors in the Sahel region. It is therefore a great platform to build, renew and maintain strong business relationships. This years FOCAS is free and open to all.

This Edition of FOCAS is organized by the ACA and CIAB in collaboration with CBA. Key partners and sponsors include the GIZ/MOVE, USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew Project among others.