A comprehensive market survey by Tondaar, a recognized member of the Global Shea Alliance (GSA), Shea Network Ghana, has revealed that the Shea tree is a major vegetative cover to Northern Ghana, making Ghana one of the major exporters of Shea among seven West African countries.
The Shea industry contributes to about more than half of the annual income of about 1 million households in the Upper West Region of Ghana.
However, the industry is dominated by women with little or no formal education who are unable to address the market and product quality challenges and explore the full industry potentials.
These women also produce insufficient poor quality Shea butter using crude and indeginous processing methods, preventing them from meeting the increasing Shea demand.
Discouraged from appreciating the industry’s potential impact, the key players are prompted to opt for alternative sources of livelihoods.
As a result, an average of three to five Shea trees are cut down weekly for charcoal and fuel-wood in the Upper West Region, which has continued to impact negatively on the livelihoods of women and the people of the region in the Shea industry.
The youth, particularly young girls migrate to the urban areas in search of non-existing greener pastures, while a couple of them engage in illegal mining.
It is against this backdrop that over the past four years, Tondaar has focused mainly on the capacity building of the local actors of the industry.
This has resulted in about 30% increase in the productivity.
Tondaar has also strategically put up a processing center in Kpaglaghi community in the Wa East District of the Upper West Region of Ghana, which is expected to increase productivity by 70% with over 12 women groups numbering over 300.
In realizing increase in productivity by 70%, the women were empowered through quality Shea processing, potentials of the Shea trees in alleviating poverty, Shea collecting best practices and the menace of felling Shea trees.
Abdul Hamid Adams, the Executive Director of Tondaar, said the potential of the Shea tree in the Upper West Region is great urging them not to cut the trees for charcoal and fuel-wood harvesting.
He advised the women groups to stop the illegal felling of the Shea in order to benefit from the potential of the tree.
He, however, admonished the groups to see the full potential in the Shea tree.
Abraham Asumah, Member of the Shea Advocacy Movement-Ghana also lamented the indiscriminate felling of shea trees and called on the people of the Upper West region to take the Shea industry as a major boost to the development of the Upper West Region.