Given this situation the Civic Engagement Alliance program decided to focus on the shea and cashew sectors, as they are essential for the country’s economy and millions of rural women, among which collectors and artisanal processors, who really depend on cashew and shea for their revenue. Two intervention strategies are used:
- Capacity development for lobby and advocacy and support to the Beninese partners working in the cashew and shea sectors, and through them to community level shea and cashew producer’s organizations, and shea and cashew company workers. We do so mainly by using the Change the Game methodology.
- The other strategy is to support the partners in Benin to engage in dialogue with government and private sector actors to promote positive change in the shea and cashew sectors and advocate for better living and working conditions for small producers, collectors and workers in these sectors, women in particular.
Focus on women’s rights
Both strategies are followed in a gender sensitive way, in particular focusing on women’s rights. This approach is relevant and urgent, because the majority of producers and workers in cashew and shea sectors are women and at the same time the living and working conditions for women are less favorable than for men. Women do not have property rights on the lands that carry cashew plantations and shea parks. They are prone to snake bites and have to travel very long distances in forests with the risk of being raped. Since they can not put mortgages on the land, they can not have access to finance to buy equipment that would lessen the pain of artisanal processing. Research on access of women to rural land in the regions of cashew of shea plantations has been done as part of the program. This study gives a clear picture to what extent women are marginalized in the ownership of land, even if they can use land as a family member. In all capacity building activities, women’s participation was guaranteed.
Studies and research of sectors
To inform our lobby and advocacy with concrete evidence on the working and living conditions of smallholders and workers in shea and cashew sectors, and their perspectives, Civic Engagement Alliance did several studies in Benin to get a broad and deep picture of both sectors (e.g. varying from access to financing, (international) market functioning, service provision). These studies and research (4) related to cashew, shea and civil society development have been implemented to generate robust arguments to be incorporated in dialogue, lobby and advocacy for improved shea and cashew sectors. With the same objectives, studies and lessons learned regarding the national or regional context (e.g. the Ivory Coast success case) have been capitalized. These studies give solid information to stakeholders in their day-to-day activities to improve shea and cashew production and market environments and were taken into account in the formulation of a joint position paper as a basis for further lobby and advocacy interventions.
(4) Studies and research can be accessed on: https://civicengagementalliance.org/countries/benin