Cashew nuts are the main cash crop in Guinea-Bissau. According to the Ministry of Commerce of Guinea-Bissau, 200,000 tons of cashew nuts were exported in 2011. The cashew harvest occupies the populations each year from March to July and provides them with enough income for the whole year. During the peak of the cashew season in April and May, Community Management Committees (CMC) in Tostan’s partner communities in Guinea-Bissau got organized to better handle this situation and make sure Tostan classes were not interrupted. Therefore, many people can attend classes and sell cashews to meet their financial needs.

CMCs take advantage of this period to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. CMCs meet specifically to find ways to prevent bushfires that can destroy the entire cashew harvest in a community. The villages of Bironque, Cussaraba, Fajonquito, and Lenquebato have built ​​firewalls to protect orchards from bushfires. Collecting cashew nuts also allowed them to fund travel and food costs for members of each CMC’s Environment Committee during social mobilization missions in other villages.

The Tostan program also trains communities on how to replenish their community funds during this season. Subgroups, which are already established and supervised by CMC members, pick up cashew nuts for a fixed amount of money or in exchange of in-kind payment of a few kilograms of cashew nuts to sell later on the market in times of financial scarcity.

This money enables CMCs to promote education and health for all, through the purchase of school supplies and medicines for community health posts. In the villages of Cancubantche, Sintcham Laubé, and Sumbundo, this money was used to pay teachers of community schools. In Sumbundo, the money was used to buy notebooks and chalk for the local school. The money is also used to generate income through the purchase of rice, millet, and other food products to sell in the “lumu” or during the hunger season.

A vast chain of community solidarity is born in Guinea-Bissau, promoting and defending human rights in communities hosting Tostan centers.

By Alassane Diedhiou, National Coordinator of Guinea-Bissau, Tostan