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Customer Snapshot

Smartphones Bring Profits to Small Farms

1/4 ton

yield per hectare from traditional cashew trees

Africa is the largest source of raw cashews in the world, but has yet to realize its huge economic potential, with worldwide value of raw cashew trade estimated to be $2 billion. The African Cashew Initiative (ACi) was created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, to help small farmers in developing countries take full advantage of their cashew production, and increase their income.


Germany-based Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is commissioned to manage the project and facilitate cooperation among the partners.

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Access to Modern Technology


GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) GmbH


Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Customer Website


Number of Employees


Implementation Partners

Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Line of Business



Consumer Products, Wholesale Distribution

Featured Products

SAP Business One Mobile App, SAP Business One

Business Model

ACi focuses on supporting cashew producers in four West African countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Mozambique. It has three principle goals: to enable farmers in these countries to increase the yield and quality of their cashew products; to improve business linkages with processing industry brokers and traders; to develop advanced marketing strategies, including quality management.


GIZ and SAP, in cooperation with the ACi partners, explored how mobile business applications could support the cashew farmers and processors within the rural African context. They discovered that by introducing smartphone and enterprise resource planning technologies, farmer cooperatives could operate their businesses in a more structured, effective, efficient, and profitable way.

Success Strategy

Stepping up to success

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New Possibilities

The Challenge

Ambitious plans to grow African farm business

In order to build on the benefits of ACi’s initial phase of exploratory activities, the second phase includes a significant up-scaling of the roll-out of mobile business applications to an increasing number of beneficiaries in the cashew and other sectors. The company will make the system’s transactional data available to participants higher up the value chain. Quality management, sustainability certification will receive particular attention for access. A closer value chain linkage in general will be sought.


ACi further intends to investigate the applicability of the technology for additional agricultural sectors. The adoption of the technology by a high number of diverse end-users is an important step towards developing a generic and commercially successful service offering.


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Cashew Farming Supporting Families

Enter SAP

Tech tools for fair trade

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Solution to Facilitate Trust

ACi required special applications to support the management of farmer cooperatives’ membership and financial records. It needed powerful systems to operate business processes like bulk selling of raw cashews to buyers. The company asked for programs to handle analytics and certifications for fair-trade and other specialty markets. ACi required the new system to include farmer registrations, prices broadcast to smartphones, buying and loading via phones, notification panels, a device synchronization monitor, transactional analytics, and the GIS-Backdrop (Geographical Information System).

The SAP Experience

SAP and GIZ – a perfect fit

ACi believed these technologies would help small farmers gain access to profitable markets, and increase their incomes. Established players, such as the processors, buyers, and multinationals, profit from enhanced transparency and reliability when conducting business with the farmer cooperatives.


Once SAP’s solutions were in place, they could plan and forecast everything more accurately:

  • Successful real-life piloting of the system by reaching more than 7,000 small farmer/producers.
  • More than 10,000 recorded business transactions using mobile phones in buying stations and warehouses across five pilots in Ghana and Burkina Faso—with a system adoption rate of greater than 90%.
  • System availability and stability overcomes technical challenges in rural West Africa conditions.
  • Proven suitability of the system across two cash crops (cashew and shea nuts), attracting interest of small-scale processors, buyers, importers and retailers, and certifiers.
  • Applicability of the system to organized and non-organized farmers in English and French language versions.
  • Easy deployment to prospective customers proven by the decreasing time-to-pilot durations.


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Supporting Business Processes

Ultimately, the greatest innovation is that existing economic activities among farmer groups have become more sustainable. This not only boosts local economic activity but also improves the socio-economic situation for a vast number of under-serviced rural inhabitants in Africa.

Running Better

Quick and easy access to critical information

The system keeps farmers informed of their cashew sales, price levels, and changes. It also traces product movement along the supply chain and among the small farmers, manufacturing processing plants and wholesale traders.


In addition, a farmer cooperative that is managing the supply chain can, through the GIS system, see farmer contact data, farm size, location and tree inventory, and pricing. This makes it easy to forecast and optimize cashew collection. Farmer organizations can also trace back each cashew sack to its original producer.


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The Ultimate Benefit


Tasting financial freedom

“I can now take care of my family more easily. Harvesting cashews is still hard work, but earning income is now easier.”

- Alhaji Amadu Mahama


Alhaji Amadu Mahama of Ghana is one of the 1.5 million small farmers in Africa for whom cashews are their main source of income. Many small farmers know only cashew farming, and depend on cashew income to support their families. The ACi initiative has given many of these farmers a first taste of financial security.


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“SAP technology helps us know everything that occurs in the farmer zones we cover right from our office without having to go into the field.”

“With SAP technology, the smartphones bring transparency to our entire process. We now receive trust from farmers because they believe we are not mismanaging their money. Before there was an issue with trust since we sometimes had trouble with calculations. But now we have this technology and receive a small commission from the Union, so the system benefits us as well as the farmers.”

- Ankuma Darko, Secretary of the Painamis Buying Station in West Ghana


Lessons Learned

Innovation spawns expansion

As part of ACi’s Innovation & Learning objectives, it implemented and piloted prototypical software applications to support smallholders’ farmer groups and their buyers. ACi plans to increase its efforts and to expand the software applications to other crops. The company has set a goal to reach about 30,000 farmers by 2015.

Run Simple

Sustainable farming, and sustained success

Two years after the project launched, ACi and its partners have helped many cashew farmers achieve significant sustainable development, as demonstrated by the statistics below:

  • More than 240,000 individual farmers trained. This means ACi resources have reached more than 1.9 million members of rural house holds.
  • Trained farmers have realized additional family income of $20 million annually, by applying good agricultural practices, resulting in higher yields.
  • Income from cashews drastically reduces the hungry season gap for many farming families.
  • 13 new cashew processing units are now fully functional.
  • Processors have delivered 3,000 metric tons of cashew kernels worth US$29 million to European and U.S. markets.
  • Factories that process the cashews now employ almost 4,000 workers, 74% being women; with seven more factories expected by the end of 2012.
  • Installed capacity for ACi-assisted processing is 29,000 metric tons of raw cashnew nuts, which are fully exportable products.


Journey Ahead

Cashews…and beyond!

Altogether, the vision for the future is to deploy the technology at numerous pilot sites in different countries, both in the cashew sector and beyond, ultimately reaching an estimated 30,000 new beneficiaries within the next 2 years.


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Life Becoming a Little Easier

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