RESEARCHERS FROM Scotland’s Rural College have recently returned from Guinea-Bissau in Western Africa, where they were examining the country's heavy reliance on cashew cultivation – and the options for lessening that dependency.

Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Academy of Medical Science, the visit was part of a broader push to put developing countries in contact with research centres, such as SRUC, which can help them develop their economies while putting their food chain on a more secure footing.

Guinea-Bissau is in need of a diversification strategy to reduce it reliance on cashews as its main source of exports income. By amending current practices, the agriculture sector could mitigate the risk of that dependency on cashews, as well as accommodate sustainability for nutrition and long-term planning.

SRUC staff Professor Andrew Barnes and Joana Ferrier, from the Land Economy and Environment Research Group, along with Henry Creissen, from the Crop and Soil Systems Group, joined researchers from the University of Lisbon to form an integrated research team.

The team travelled around Guinea-Bissau to visit a number of managed and semi-wild cashew plantations, which allowed the team to speak with people working along the cashew supply chain.

Prof Barnes said: “We are excited to be involved in this work, which will allow us, through our research and educational capacity, to support the development of the agricultural economy of Guinea-Bissau.”

At the end of their week-long visit, the research team organised a workshop to address the potential for diversification and options to increase resilience of the cashew system already in place.

Along the way, the team delivered a range of SRUC materials, including visual soil assessment guides and a demonstration of the potential to use digital microscopes in the field to identify pests and diseases in the cashew crop. The team will revisit Guinea-Bissau at the end of the rainy season in October to understand the seasonal effects on food security.