Agriterra goes on an excursion in Ghana. Although it normally only works with cooperatives that have already been going for a while, a project has been started here with women who often don't even know the term cooperative.
“Where the shea tree grows, life grows”. A beautiful quote that perfectly describes the situation for women, especially in the north of Ghana. Women there have a hard life. They have little money and even fewer opportunities to be independent of their husbands. The collection, processing and sale of shea nuts provides them with extra income and therefore the scope to become more self-reliant. Shea nuts grow wild on trees in the West African savannah. The nuts are rich in vegetable fat that is processed into cosmetics items as well as foods. The collection and processing of the shea nuts is hard work and sometimes a risky undertaking. It means picking nuts amongst snakes and scorpions and walking kilometres with heavy baskets of nuts on your head in the scorching sun. In addition, it is also a complicated process to get the shea nuts to the right buyer. That is where Agriterra comes in.
The abovementioned quote is also the slogan of the Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC) shea sustainability programme. Agriterra has set up a project with them. Under the Global Shea Alliance, they train women to establish a cooperative in 3 years. The first year is used to make women aware of the options. What is their current level of knowledge? Are they motivated? And what are the future prospects? Agriterra becomes involved in the second phase, once the cooperative has been officially registered. Agriterra mentors and trains the women in this second phase. They work on a vision and good cooperative governance and ensure that there is an office as well as a manager and that a quality control team is established for quality assurance.
Nnoboas are groups of men or women who help one another harvest and process the crop. They have proven essential in the establishment of the cooperatives. There are now two registered shea cooperatives that are ready for the next step. Both cooperatives originated from existing women's groups. That way, women never go into the bush alone to pick shea nuts. The cracking, cooking, and cleaning of the nuts is also done together, as the purchase of cooking utensils is very expensive. They were basically already working as a cooperative; only the business aspect and insight were lacking.
Cooperatives are a solution for women in northern Ghana for different reasons. As an organised group, you have a stronger negotiating position in the chain, which can address inequality in particular. A better price can be agreed with a better position and that in turn has an impact on the women's independence and quality of life. In addition, the women often did not sell their bags of shea all at once because their husbands took the money. They sold it bag by bag. Those problems can be tackled through an organised cooperative and larger consignments can be sold to meet buyer demand. The first trucks carrying shea butter have meanwhile arrived at the BLC factory. The quality meets the requirements and the buyer is satisfied. Quickly collect another truck load!
Habiba Nyarko Agyemang, business advisor of Agriterra Ghana : “It has been a successful project so far because the women are keen and very engaged and tenacious. They are really making progress. This offers opportunities for other sectors in Ghana too.”