6 Mar 2020

Investigating the environmental impact of West African rice and cashew value chains

Project for GIZ

In January this year, we completed an exciting project for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH – GIZ– Germany's leading provider of international cooperation services, which took us to West Africa to explore the environmental footprint of rice and cashew value chains.

Cashew and rice in West Africa

West Africa is currently the world’s largest cashew producing region. However, only 5% of the raw cashew nuts are processed locally, the remaining 95% are processed in Asia (after which the products are shipped to Europe). At the same time, West African rice production only partly meets domestic demand, and a large quantity of rice is imported from Asia.

GIZ’s Competitive African Rice Initiative (GIZ/CARI) and Competitive Cashew Initiative (GIZ/ComCashew) projects aim to increase the competitiveness and productivity of rice and cashew value chains in East and West Africa. Through a multi-stakeholder approach that involves all actors along the value chain, the projects aim to improve the productivity of farmers, boost processing and build linkages to national and international markets.

Environmental impact assessment

The aim of this assignment was to assess the environmental impact of enhanced local production and processing. The local rice and cashew is produced by smallholder farmers who were trained on good agricultural practices (GAP) by GIZ/CARI and GIZ/ComCashew.
For rice, we investigated the environmental impact of different production practices (e.g. rain-fed cultivation versus irrigation) and compared locally produced rice in Nigeria to imported rice from Asia. For cashew nuts, we assessed the influence of applying good agricultural practices was assessed, and the impact of processing cashew locally instead of in Asia.


Rice results

The results clearly show the benefit of stimulating local production. Rice produced by GIZ/CARI farmers in Nigeria had a lower environmental impact than rice imported from Asia. The avoided transport and especially the farming practices employed in Africa led to a lower footprint. Rice production is a big source of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that is emitted from anaerobic decomposition of organic material during the flooding of rice fields. In Africa, rice production involves less intensive flooding (e.g. through the practice of alternate wetting and drying as promoted by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP)) and more rain-fed production, leading to a lower environmental impact. Less intensive mechanisation (less use of tractors, harvesters and pumps) also contributes to the lower footprint of African rice.

Cashew results

Processing raw cashew nuts in Africa instead of in Asia, reduces environmental impact, as long transport distances to and from Asia are avoided. Growing cashew nuts using good agricultural practices promoted by GIZ/ComCashew, such as pruning and fire prevention, led to a lower footprint than conventional cashew due to higher yields.

Presentation and in-depth training in Ghana

Two of our consultants, Caroline te Pas and Jasper Scholten, travelled to Ghana to present the results and give in-depth training on life cycle assessments. Discussions with the participants led to interesting insights on how to further increase sustainability in the two value chains.

The results demonstrate the environmental benefit of stimulating production and processing in West Africa and underpin GIZ’s efforts to strengthen these value chains.

More information

Get in touch

Jasper Scholten
Business Unit Manager | Blonk Consultants

If you have questions about this project, or are interested in the environmental impact of agricultural products,
please contact Jasper Scholten or call +31 (0)182 579970.