Shea butter production is the main source of livelihood for many women in northern Region. However, women engaged in shea butter production do not derive full benefit of their hard work as they lack the technical know-how to enable them to maximise output.
These women are by tradition, exempted from land ownership, but they have the opportunity to pick the shea nuts freely in the wild.
In extreme cases, they are bitten by snakes while picking the nuts because they do not have any protective clothing - wellington boots and hand gloves - and they are also exposed to the harsh weather conditions.
The butter produced from shea nut is used as cooking oil in preparing traditional dishes and for treating skin rashes and inflammation.
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In the Ghanaian culture, the shea tree is held in high esteem and the people see it as a community resource that can neither be individually owned nor destroyed.
In addition to their nutritional and medicinal benefits, shea trees are an integral part of the local ecosystem, providing a natural barrier to halt rapid desertification.
To boost the operations of these women, Sekaf Ghana Limited, a profit- making organisation, and producers of TAMA cosmetics, has inaugurated its new office to enable it expand to its Shea Butter Village in Kasaglu in Tamale.
The office is to help put together a team of professionals who will work to implement a business plan and provide a ready market for the shea nut farmers.
It is also to bring together more women engaged in the shea butter business, employ, empower and train them to expand their businesses.
In attendance at the inauguration was the Canadian Deputy Minister for International Development, Mr Paul Rochoon; the Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Christopher Thornley, chiefs, youth leaders, and shea nut producers.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer of Sekaf Ghana Limited, Mr Senyo Kpelly, said the organisation operated in a clean and safe environment for the local women’s cooperative groups to process shea nuts into shea butter.
The butter, he said, was used to make the TAMA range of natural therapeutic shea butter cosmetics including shea oil for the hair and for the body.
He, therefore, lauded the effort of Lundin Foundation, a Vancouver-based foundation for providing technical assistance to the company.
Also, he said, with investment from Injaro Agricultural Capital Holdings, the company had been able to hire new staff who would assist with the development of the business.
“We have hired professionals and specialists such as a cosmetic chemist, a general manager and a finance administration manager to help the business achieve its long term growth objectives,” he said.
Mr Kpelly pledged to continue to use the cosmetic industry to improve the health of its customers through shea butter and national products, as well as to empower rural women .
Employment, training and empowerment
On employment, Mr Kpelley said the organisation now employed over 2,500 women made up of shea nut pickers and processors who provided high quality shea nuts and butter in an ethical and sustainable supply chain.
“They process the shea butter used in TAMA cosmetics in a clean controlled environment,” he added.
Mr Kpelley said all the women were trained freely on how to process the shea nuts for higher yield, as well as the best practice processing guides.
He said the company also supported the creation of women cooperatives and assisted them with their registration adding that it delivered basic business and savings training by way of empowerment to help them to function better.
“We are committed to improving the economic status of rural women shea nut pickers and processors in northern Ghana through innovative and sustainable employment,” he added.
Canadian Minister and Lundin Foundation.
Addressing the gathering, the Canadian Deputy Minister for International Development, Mr Paul Rochoon, lauded the effort of Sekaf in empowering the rural women to grow.
He said there was the urgent need to support women and help them grow, especially in the area of agriculture as they contributed a lot to support the sector.
Mr Rochoon, however, pledged the support of the people of Canada to support the organisation and the rural women as it was a step towards strengthening the relationship between Ghana and Canada.
For her part, the Ghana Office Manager of Lundin Foundation, Madam Anna Samaké, lauded the Canadian government for the support over the years, adding that initiatives such as that by Sekaf helped to grow sustainable small and medium scale enterprises in Africa and transformed Africa in general.
Sharing her experience
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, Madam Fuseina Nasaki, a 50 year-old mother of six, said she had been in the shea butter business for a long time.
She said before joining Sekaf, she used to make shea butter twice a week but still did not get enough returns for her work.
“Sometimes, I go to the market and I’m forced to go with the price that the customers will give me and this was worrying,” she said.
Madam Nasaki, however, said she now made huge returns for her shea butter and had also learnt to package them in order to add value to the shea butter produced.