YYTZ: Creating an Inclusive Cashew Nut Value Chain in Tanzania

Tanzania is the fourth largest cashew producer in the world with 85 percent of cashews grown by smallholder farmers. However, due to underinvestment in processing capacity and market connections, Tanzanian farmers only receive less than 10 percent of the final cashew price.

As an impact-first investor, FINCA Ventures took the initiative to partner with YYTZ, a cashew processor based in Zanzibar. YYTZ’s goal is to bring more value back to the farmer through the introduction of a transparent consumer brand. By enhancing farmers’ incomes through community-level processing, the company is stepping up to meet the growing cashew demand.

Over 4,700 smallholder farmers and women’s groups in Tanzania’s main regions provide YYTZ with raw and semi-processed cashews. After obtaining the cashews, they are transported to their processing facility in Zanzibar where they are transformed into a variety of retail-ready goods such as roasted cashews and cashew butter. They are then sold to East African and global markets under YYTZ’s consumer brand, More Than Cashews.

With COVID travel restrictions easing, I traveled to Tanzania to meet with Fahad Awadh, the founder of YYTZ, and witness the company’s impact firsthand.

Cashew Processing at a Local Level

Mtwara, which is roughly an hour flight from Dar es Salaam, was the first destination. To better understand their role in the cashew nut value chain, we met with a women’s group who live and work in the Mambamba village. We had the opportunity to visit the farms where the cashews are cultivated and learn more about the processing procedures. Even though it was post-harvest season.

Smallholder farmer using a nut-cracking machine to shell cashews

A day’s work for these hardworking women consists of boiling a large kettle of raw cashews to soften them. They then shell each cashew either with a nut-cracking machine or by hand with a sharp knife. The cashews are then sun dried and packaged before being sent to the processing facility.

Shelling cashews by hand which takes about 2 minutes for each cashew

Most of the women had been friends for most of their lives, some of them were related, and they all exuded a peaceful spirit. Throughout the course of the working day, they joked about, shared tales, and even sung uplifting tunes. Many of them talked about how working with YYTZ has improved their business and helped them overcome personal circumstances. Through value addition, farmers in this community can increase their earnings, enhancing their overall standard of living.

Women shelling raw cashews in the Mambamba Village

The Cashew Production Journey Continues

The next stop was a visit to YYTZ’s factory in Zanzibar. YYTZ creates jobs for locals and completes the entire value addition process in Tanzania. To avoid middlemen who cut into farmers’ profits, YYTZ invested in cashew shelling machinery that community members can operate. This also allows them to build connections with retailers directly.

I talked to the factory workers to find out about their life and how working with YYTZ has impacted their personal and family circumstances.

The Impact of YYTZ on a Factory Worker’s Life

Every morning, Salome Paulo Mbembati wakes up at the crack of dawn, gets dressed, and heads to the factory for her shift. Together with her coworker Aziza, she sorts and gets the cashews ready for packaging.

Salome and Aziza at the YYTZ cashew processing facility

With the money she makes from the factory, Salome is able to provide for and look after her five children — three daughters and two sons. She is also able to contribute to the construction of her future home. Salome recalled a time when her eldest son fell terribly ill and she was unable to cover his medical expenses. She was given a loan by YYTZ, which she was allowed to repay over time. And she also received donations from her coworkers. Salome values this kind of employee assistance the most. She is grateful to know that YYTZ is prepared to help its staff members in their time of need.

Salome Paulo Mbembati at the YYTZ facility in Zanzibar

YYTZ has since launched its product in regional supermarkets in Kenya and Tanzania, selling to regional hotels and coffee shops as travel picks back up. The company also plans to tap into North American supermarket chains. Selling under a branded product instead of into the wholesale market furthers their capacity to keep giving farmers steady and better rates during periods of market turbulence, which ties into their mission. FINCA is pleased to partner with and support social enterprises like YYTZ to strengthen resilience for families and small businesses.