The National Democratic Congress (NDC) during the 2008 electioneering campaign season, promised Northern farmers it would inject some significant amount of support into the shea sector of the economy when it wins the election. But more than a year after assuming the reigns of governance in the country, nothing serious is being done in the shea industry.
Even though government promised to build a sheanut processing factory in the Central Gonja District of the Northern Region, nothing has happened yet ever since the Vice President John Dramani Mahama cut sod for the construction of the plant several months ago. Protest by shea farmers and some youth groups in the Gonjaland about the delay of the project had all fallen on deaf ears.
However, with the approval of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) Bill into law which is still awaiting Presidential assent, participants at the sheanut forum organized in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital said that it was about time government attached much seriousness to its campaign promise.
They expressed worry about the sector being the least developed with its potentials underutilized by successive governments though the shea industry is regarded as one of the great potentials which could go a long way to reduce the abject poverty situations in the three Northern Regions (Upper West, Upper East and Northern) which have been blessed with natural sheanut trees.
The participants further bemoaned that while the cocoa sector has been developed to its peak, little or no attention has been given to the shea industry which should be a national concern.
Giving an overview of the forum, Rose Tanzile, Coordinator of the National Shea Network said the platform was created to brainstorm and make recommendations to government and multinational companies in the shea industry to set the pace for a more coordinated approach to develop the industry.
She outlined key issues including inadequate skills training on sheanuts picking and processing, rapid reduction in tree numbers with little effort for replacement, poor budgetary allocation for the sector’s development and lack of specific comprehensive policy framework to support the shea sector as some of the challenges the industry has been faced with over the years.
According to Madam Tanzile, Oxfam GB and the Netherlands Development Association organized the first forum that came out with a consensual agreement to form the National Shea Network which aims at facilitating and coordinating the efforts of all stakeholders’ actions that are geared towards promoting the sectors development for equal benefits.
Speaking to newsmen, Roy Ayariga, National Coordinator of the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) disclosed that the African Development Bank has committed an amount of 62 million United States Dollars to support the shea sector.
According to him, the money will be used for infrastructural expansion comprising roads, bridges and facilities that are needed to improve the socio-economic well being of residents of less developed shea producing communities in
He also announced IFAD’s pledge of additional 22 million United States Dollar package to improve production, extension services, processing, marketing, research and access to micro finance credit schemes.
Mr. Ayariga was emphatic that a chunk of the money would be used to support women who died as a result of snake bites and other deadly reptiles who feed on the shea nuts they go to pick from the wild.
Among other resource persons were, Dr. Joshua A. Yidana of the University for Development Studies (UDS) and Dr. Ameyaw of CRIG who implored government to engage the services of researchers to come out with useful findings that would help players in the sheanuts industry to make informed decisions as means of catching up with their colleagues in the cocoa industry.