Benin's strategic development guidelines focus on accelerating the country's economic growth by promoting the agricultural sector. This sector employs about 70% of the active population, contributes about 33% of GDP, provides about 75% of export earnings and 15% of total government revenue (INSAE, 2015).
The cashew and shea sectors are of paramount importance. They are respectively the second and the third agricultural export product of the country. Cashews provide 8% of Benin's export earnings, 24.87% of agricultural export earnings and 7% of agricultural GDP. As for Shea, it generates 0.3% of GNP and contributes 15% of agricultural GNP.
Both sub-sectors employ a large agricultural workforce. Thus, there are about 200,000 producers of cashew (95% of men and 5% of women) while for the shea subsector the number of collectors and processors is estimated at 500,000 (GIZ, 2011).
These two sectors are characterized by low productivity and competitiveness. Very little processed locally, cashew and shea produced in Benin are almost exported in the raw state (0.2% of processed cashew and shea). Both sectors face technical training difficulties in production and processing, access to financing and the availability of quality plant material. These difficulties are a handicap for the development of both sectors and prevent small producers and processors from emerging from extreme poverty.
The solutions to these difficulties are the domain of the State which must create the environment favorable to the construction of these value chains. ICCO's Convening & Convincing program sees civil society organizations as potential agents of change to bring actors in both sectors to use all the opportunities that are in their favor to get the state and its local services to develop actions in favor of the shea and cashew nut sectors. In the context of current governance, SCOs are a major lever for compelling governments to perform their duties. Thus, strategically, the program relies on a lobbying and advocacy approach for inclusive development policies and strategies supported by civil society organizations to directly impact the incomes of smallholder shea and cashew farmers. . It covers two axes:
operational strengthening of policy dialogue space for civil society, and;
capacity building for smallholders in the shea and cashew sectors to make them competitive and improve their fair market access and incomes.