Several hundreds of people in Northern Ghana risk losing their source of livelihoods, following the low yields of shea nuts as a result of indiscriminate bushfires
Shea trees grow in the wild and the shea pickers, mostly women and children, comb the bush to pick the nut.
The shea nut industry offers employment for many individuals in Northern Ghana, particularly women in rural communities who are involved in all of its value chain processes.
Following the decrease in the yields, the price for the nuts has gone up as many of the shea nuts pickers comb many bushes, which hitherto were known places for shea nuts but are unable to get the nuts.
Similarly, many of the shea nut processors are unable to get access to the nuts to process.
The President of the Yumyataba Shea Nut Processors Association, Memunatu Yakubu in an interview said the average number of bags picked per woman has dropped from 15 bags to about five bags per annum.
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“Prices have increased, which is good for us, unfortunately, we cannot get enough seeds to pick. Now the highest one can pick is five bags and this is affecting our members”, she stated.
Memunatu Yakubu attributed the decrease in the number of bags they pick per annum to the rampant bushfires in the region, which she said has destroyed many of the shea trees.
According to some studies, it takes about 20 years for a shea tree to grow to maturity to bear fruit.
The Coordinator of the group, Mr Paul Tia, was of the view that the shea trees are not only destroyed through bushfires but also through charcoal production as many charcoal producers in the region cut the trees for their trade.
“Every year people set fire to the bush during the harmattan season, and this is the period in which the trees flower and fruit", he said, adding that "obviously, yields will be affected and some trees will never recover from such burns—they die eventually."
The association as part of its efforts to save and protect the shea trees from being destroyed has organised series of forums to educate community members against bush burning.
Mr Tia said the association has also received support from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC) to continue its advocacy campaign.
“We hope that when people stop bush burning, yields will go up, trees will be preserved and young trees will grow to replace old trees that will eventually die naturally,” he noted.
Mr Tia has, therefore, commended BUSAC Fund for the financial support and thanked traditional authorities as well as the Gushegu Municipal Assembly for supporting the group to realise its objectives.