By Sailu Bah
Dr. Bilal Robinson, a cashew specialist, said cashew can be transformed into multiple uses.
He said such an initiative can help in reducing unemployment as people would be engaged in its production and processing.
He told this reporter in an interview at his office in Kotu on Wednesday, 7th January 2015, that it is important for people to know that cashew has many benefits which need to be exploited by the country.
Explaining the multiple uses of cashew, he said it can be transformed into flour, cakes, candy, vinegar, chocolate, honey, soap, wine, and a lot more products which can be produced to earn huge amounts of money.
Dr. Robinson said cashew nut processing is financially viable economic venture which can earn hundreds of thousands of Dalasi to an individual. He gave the example of the recently ended GCCI trade fair which, he said, has earned them more than D120, 000 in the course of three weeks after selling their processed cashew nut products.
He said he has been into cashew nut processing for more than 25 years. He said he was engaged in cashew processing in Guinea Bissau for 20 years before coming to the Gambia to help establish a Community Based Organisation [CBO] called Tringfili Agro-Forestry in Dasilami Jokadu in 2006 with Ba Morro Saidy, his Gambian counterpart.
He said the main objective of the CBO is to help in creating employment for Gambians by educating young people and women on how to process cashew in to other types of foods.
Dr. Robinson said they trained 3 women who are now engaged in cashew processing. He added that since the establishment of the CBO, they have also trained 15 kids who help in the picking of the nuts for processing during the cashew season. He said they pay school fees and provide other materials for the kids who are involved in it.
The CBO, he said, has succeeded in planting 200 cashew trees at Darsilami Jokadu.
He outlined the challenges of the business as the spoilage of the cashew fruit which sometimes amounts to hundreds of thousands of Dalasi. He lamented that Gambia experiences this every year. He said their CBO is also working on strategies to help minimize this spoilage and economic losses.
“We have been operating two cashew fruit bakeries in Bakau, but they are both closed down due to some constraints. Currently, we have few major constraints hindering our work plan on cashew processing and these include the lack of capital to buy equipment for the processing of the cashew nuts,” he said.
He also cited lack of transportation as another constraint they are facing.
He noted that they have a constraint to implement their plan as they want to establish a factory which will cost nothing less than 245, 000 US dollars and this requires a space of 66,000 sq.ft of land. He said this factory will help employ about 450 people.
He disclosed that they have sent a proposal to the Gambia government and international agencies to help finance the project, but are yet to receive a positive response.
Dr. Robinson said they have started exporting small quantities of processed cashew nuts to countries like Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana.
By Sailu Bah