Diversifying shea butter markets and increasing capacity of smallholder women producers in rural Ghana
Northern Ghana Shea (NGS), a social enterprise operating in the Upper West region of Ghana, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to expand market access for 4,000 rural women who pick shea nuts and produce shea butter, and to diversify their customer base by securing at least two international buyers by 2018. As part of its commitment, by 2017 the company will increase the volume of these small-scale farmers production by 60 percent.
Diversifying sales beyond the domestic market will economically empower rural women in the region by enabling small-scale producers and pickers to tap into the global demand for shea butter. To accomplish this, NGS will provide training in cost-effective production of quality shea nuts and facilitate access to equipment and international markets. The planned initiative, which builds on the company's existing inclusive business model, will increase the production and incomes of at least 1,500 shea butter producers and 2,500 nut collectors; at least 80 percent of the end price received will go to these women. In addition, it will impact approximately 9,000 of their household and community members, with a multiplier effect on local economic development, including others along the shea nut value chain.
Upper West Ghana is the poorest region of the country, with a poverty incidence of 70 percent compared to the national average of 24 percent. Women in the region are particularly marginalized within a largely patriarchal society, with very limited access to sources of income. Since shea nuts are traditionally harvested and processed by women, developing the shea industry in northern Ghana has been identified as a key to rapid and sustainable economic development.
With its focus on economic, social and environmental viability, NGS operates on a hybrid model, which ensures the involvement of smallholder women without sacrificing the economic and financial imperatives for sustainability. The enterprise seeks to provide a sustainable avenue for wealth creation by providing training, equipment and market linkages for high-quality handcrafted shea butter. Over the past three years, the company has purchased more than 5,000 bags of shea nuts harvested by rural women, and sold 58.9 mt of shea butter produced by small-scale women producers, increasing the incomes of 554 women within 17 communities and 5 districts of Ghana's Upper West region.
NGS was established by the charity Concern Universal in 2012, which recognized the potential for the shea sector to sustainably reduce poverty and empower marginalized women in Northern Ghana. Concern Universal has been working in Ghana Since 1999 to challenge the root causes of poverty; it has been active in the Upper West region since 2005.