Guinean Maria Esperança Fernandes has many mouths to feed, but she is tired of looking for alternatives to the sale of cashew nuts, piled up at home because no one buys them, and hunger is already a reality in the family.
The widow, a producer in Mansoa, in the Oio region of central-northern Guinea-Bissau, says that from time to time she has no choice but to sell cashew nuts at 150 or 200 CFA francs (between 0.22 and 0.30 euros). ) a price well below the 350 CFA francs (0.57 euros) stipulated by the government.
“Sometimes I sell a bag [de caju] earn three or four thousand CFA francs [4,5 ou sete euros] buy a bag of rice,” he said, but expressed his anger at having to sell the livelihood of 14 people in the family, including six children, at a low price.
On the possibility of exchanging cashew nuts for rice, the answer is prompt: “I can’t and I won’t. I’m hungry, it’s true, but I won’t. Time in time, I manage and sell 10 kilograms to collect 2,000 CFA francs (3.5 euros) to buy the rice and then I fight to buy other ingredients to make the food”.
Apart from the difficulty of feeding the family, Maria Esperança says that “she cannot even buy soap to wash the children’s clothes” and is already anticipating a new problem: “I have to find money to pay for the registration of children, we are in the middle of the school year, I am incapable”.
Leandro Pinto Júnior, director of the Guinean NGO Cooperativa Agropecuária de Jovens Quadros (Coajoq), a non-governmental organization that works in the Cacheu region of northern Guinea-Bissau, tells Lusa that “farmers are suffering” because that this year they were unable to presale cashew nuts, which involves selling small quantities to cover the costs of preparing the orchards.
In addition to the international situation and the drop in demand, the leader attributes the crisis to the electoral campaign for the legislative elections of June 4, which “harmed the marketing” of cashew nuts, which “could lead to hunger in the rural communities”.
Namir Agostinho Bontche, producer in Ponta Gardete, in the Biombo region, about 10 kilometers from Bissau, confirms: “In previous years, we had already sold all our chestnuts at this stage”.
“The purchase had already started here, some were selling at 150, 200 CFA francs per kilo, but suddenly it stopped”, he says, referring to that he “is waiting for the government because it is he who decides to All”.
“Our call is for the government to find solutions so that businessmen can buy our chestnut,” he says.
Until then, he limits himself to picking cashew nuts and arranging them at home because “there is no buyer”, which “makes it difficult to find money to buy rice” to feed his family of more than 20 people.
“They sell rice at a very high price on the market,” laments Namir, who pays 21,500 CFA francs (33 euros) for a 50-kilo bag and if it is of “good quality” it can reach 24,000 (37 euros) ).
Despite the difficulties, this 29-year-old Guinean keeps hope for a better future and dreams of becoming a musician. He proudly says he already studies music and sings in the Protestant church choir.
Binta Sissé, a rural producer in Farim, in the Oio region, close to the border with Senegal, also has “twenty” mouths to feed and complains that “a single person is not able to support all these people”.
“When cashew is harvested, everyone is happy, even those who don’t have cashew properties. This year, we are all crying”, says the Guinean, to explain the “very difficult” situation in the Oio region: “Even we do not have enough to eat. If you have lunch, you don’t have dinner.”
Binta says there are those who offer as little as 75 CFA francs (0.11 euros) per kilogram of cashew nuts.
Mussa Cissé, also a producer in Farim, has the same grievances: “The situation is terrible”, “extremely difficult” and there are already “problems of hunger”, he says, explaining that he has harvested the cashew apples , but there is no one to buy them.
This Guinean has already tried his luck “on the other side of the border”, but was unable to sell “due to apprehensions from commercial agents, national guards”, who “don’t allow anything”.
More than 80 percent of the approximately two million Guineans depend directly or indirectly on the production of cashew nuts, the country’s main export product.
The leader of the Plataforma Aliança Inclusiva (PAI) — Terra Ranka coalition, Domingos Simões Pereira, winner by an absolute majority of the legislative elections, has defined among the priorities of the next government to solve the problem of hunger that is felt in the country due to the low marketing campaign of the cashew season.
While the political response does not arrive, Binta Sissé does not hide the revolt and summarizes the suffering of the population: “a head of family has 100 bags of chestnuts ‘lying’ at his house and the children are hungry, because he does not there is no food”.
“This is very serious […] you have children crying, asking you for money to buy food”.