The US Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Stephanie S. Sullivan, last Friday joined the Overlord of Gonjaland, Yagbonwura Tuntumba Boressa Suleimana Jakpa I, in Damongo to plant shea seedlings.
The exercise was to commemorate the maiden "Shea Day" as part of efforts to restore the degraded shea parklands in the Savannah Region.
Growing shea trees is part of an initiative by the Global Shea Alliance (GSA), an industry body for shea, to grow 10 million new shea trees over the next 10 years and also protect existing stock from being felled for firewood and charcoal.
Dubbed "Action for Shea Parklands", it also seeks to protect four million hectares of existing shea parklands.
To ensure the success of the initiative, July has been dedicated for the planting of shea tree seedlings to be known as the "Shea Month". The exercise will be commemorated each year in July from this year.
GSA is, therefore, mobilising stakeholders across the globe, including women groups in shea collection and processing, to undertake
cross-regional activities, including planting of shea seedlings, parklands management training, advocacy and social media campaigns.
The activities are currently taking place in Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria and Togo as part of the initiative.
Honour and donation
The US Ambassador to Ghana was also honoured with the title “Nkulugu-Wurche”, meaning Queen mother of shea.
It was in recognition of her efforts to promote the shea industry in the county.
The GSA also donated some shea tree seedlings to the various paramountcies in Gonjaland for planting to mark the shea month.
Speaking at the tree planting exercise to mark the "Shea Day" and to kick-start the initiative, Mrs Sullivan emphasised the critical need to protect shea parklands and take progressive actions to reverse the effects of degradation and climate change.
“Our strongest belief is that action should be led by communities at the local level. Each one of us here needs to act to reverse climate change and tree planting is the first step to get there," she stated.
"We should not just plant, we should make all efforts to ensure these trees are taken care of until maturity,” Mrs Sullivan added.
She stressed the US government's commitment to contribute to global climate solutions, highlighting its return to the Paris Climate Accord and its support of the global one trillion tree initiative; which seeks to conserve, restore and grow one trillion trees by 2030.
Mrs Sullivan announced that the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), had supported women cooperatives across the northern part of the country to plant 15,000 shea trees this month.
Support by chiefs
The Yagbonwura, in a speech read on his behalf by the Buipewura Abdullia Jinapor II, said the chiefs and people of the Savannah Region had taken a strategic decision to protect the forest cover by banning all activities of illegal logging and commercial charcoal burning activities in the region.
“All stakeholders in the region are in support of this decision and “ I am proud to inform Your Excellency that as of May 30, 2021 the ban became effective in the region,” he added.
He stressed the importance of shea trees and added that “the initiative has come to improve on the livelihood of the people.”
The Managing Director of the GSA, Mr Aaron Adu, for his part, lamented that the growing population, urbanisation and climate change, coupled with tree felling for charcoal and commercial agriculture had resulted in a steep decline in the shea tree population across the shea savannah zone in Ghana and West Africa.
“The GSA estimates that if nothing is done, demand will exceed supply by 2034 – a real threat to the sustainability of the industry and to the livelihoods of the communities in Northern Ghana,” he stated.
In order to mitigate the declining tree population, Mr Adu said, the GSA launched the Action for Shea Parklands initiative in 2020, calling on all stakeholders to come together and preserve the shea parklands for generations to come.
The Savannah Regional Minister, Mr Saeed Muahazu Jibril, in a speech read on his behalf, said the project would help preserve the local eco-system, provide livelihood and increase incomes, particularly, of women.
The GSA was established in 2011 as a non-profit industry association and currently has 706 members from 36 countries, including women groups, suppliers, brands, retailers, ingredient manufacturers, non-profits and civil society organisations.
Through public-private partnerships, the GSA promoted sustainability of the industry, good practices, and standards, and stimulated demand for shea in food and cosmetics.