Global Shea Alliance (GSA), a network of local and international actors in the shea industry announced a US$13million dollar investment project in the next 5years, geared towards facilitating 440 thousand tons of shea exports annually.
Dubbed: “GSA Sustainable Shea Initiative”, the annual export value of shea is projected to hit US$132million and is expected to increase the incomes of shea collectors by over US$3.5million dollars.
USAID/West Africa Regional Economic Growth Office Director, Dr. Mary Hobbs said this when she jointly launched the project with GSA President Mr. Konate Moumouni in Tamale.
Under the project, the GSA will partner with 25 private sector partners and up to 250 women’s shea cooperatives to implement promotional and sustainability activities in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Nigera. Also, 250 warehouses will be built throughout West Africa whereas over 130 thousand women shea collectors would have their capacity built so as to enable them organise into cooperatives and to use the warehouses to conserve and sell shea nuts at higher prices directly to exporters.
“In investing in and supporting the growth of the shea industry is one means of helping to improve incomes for women and their families”, Dr. Hobbs noted.
She, however observed, that there are serious challenges that need to be addressed in order for the shea sector to continue to grow, and to reward the many participants along the value chain.
She observed that despite growth in the use of shea in both cosmetics and the food industry, the culinary and health benefits of using shea are still not widely understood by potential end users.
“The fragmented and disorganised nature of shea supply chains in Africa means that shea nut collectors, mostly women, rarely market their product collectively. This reduces the income that women are able to receive from their labours.
“Finally, shea trees take a long time to grow and aren’t being planted and nurtured to fruit-bearing age at a rate that is fast enough to match the rate of shea tree parkland decline. Unless more shea trees are planted now, we may face a future supply crisis”, Dr. Hobbs warned.
Mr. Moumouni also indicated that, as part of the project, initiatives targeted at improving the health and safety of women shea collectors and processors will be launched.
“The GSA will also host international conference and exhibitions in Africa, Europe and US as well as undertake research projects to demonstrate the benefits of shea in food and cosmetics”, he added.
It is estimated that the shea sector in Ghana can yield one hundred tonnes of shea nuts worth about 100 million United State dollars per year. In Africa, 16million women are employed directly and indirectly in the sector.
The economic importance of the shea tree cannot be over emphasized. The mature kernel contains about 61% fat which when extracted is edible, and can serve medicinal as well as industrial purposes.
Shea butter has been found to have a fat composition similar to cocoa butter, and is used as a substitute for lard or margarine because it makes dough highly pliable.
The residue of shea serves as excellent fuel, and can also be mixed with mud for plastering traditional mud huts. The shea butter is known to be naturally rich in Vitamins A, E, and F, as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals.