From the launch of the new Global Shea Alliance to the grafting of shea trees to a business-to-business forum, “Shea 2011: Sustainable Solutions” connected hundreds of shea stakeholders from across West Africa and around the world to each other and the information they need to grow the industry.
U.S. Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, left, chats with Vice President John Mahama and USAID Trade Hub Director Vanessa Adams at Shea 2011.
“There’s a triple bottom line and money is ready to be made in multiple areas,” said U.S. Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, referring to people, planet and profit – the pillars of a sustainable shea industry. “The shea industry is an interesting and profitable proposition, already a win-win-win sector.
“But it’s also a winner in other ways,” he continued. “It generates income for rural, poor women and ensures environmental protection because billions of tons of carbon will be stored safely in trees.”
Ghana Vice President John Mahama formally opened the event with Ambassador Teitelbaum. He lauded stakeholders for coming together to build the industry.
Shea connects millions of people – from at least 4 million women in West Africa who collect and/or process shea nuts into shea butter to hundreds of millions of consumers in international markets. The use of shea in chocolate candy, including the most popular brands of chocolate candy bars in the U.S. and Europe, mean many experience it almost daily.
Eugenia Akuete (center) is the first president of the Global Shea Alliance. From left to right, Santosh Pillai of Wilmar, Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi of Daralkuchi Group in Nigeria, Mamounata Velegda of the Burkina Faso National Shea Federation, Akuete, Mamtou Djiré of the National Shea Federation of Mali (co-vice president), Kadijatou Lah of Lawal International shea trading company in Mali and Peter Stedman of The Body Shop (co-vice president).
With the formal launch of the Global Shea Alliance at Shea 2011, connecting the people across the value chain is now the pursuit of the GSA Secretariat housed at the USAID Trade Hub directed by a seven-person, majority-women executive committee elected by 100 paid members representing the industry’s leading stakeholders at the conference.
“A huge amount of work went into forming the alliance,” said USAID Trade Hub Director Vanessa Adams, who also led the team that helped launch the African Cashew Alliance in 2006. “It involves the key industry players; the Alliance represents a multinational point of view as well as grassroots organizations to exporters to traders – anybody that is committed to the shea value chain is involved.
“Each has a role to play and has a reason to ensure the alliance adds value in the industry. That’s the goal.”
"For me, the Shea Alliance is all about adding more value to the value chain, especially in the African continent," said Funlayo Alabi of Shea Radiance
The conference was preceded by two days of export training provided by experts from across the value chain. The more than 250 shea stakeholders from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda learned how to produce natural cosmetics, develop and publish a website, prepare a bankable application for a loan from a commercial bank and other financial institutions and reduce the costs of shipping and logistics.
Joseph Hunwick, left, leading a workshop on natural cosmetics formulation.
“I expected a group of 30 people and we had over 100,” said Joseph Hunwick, a natural cosmetics formulator whose workshops showed participants how to create natural cosmetics.
"Adding value to raw shea butter through the creation of emulsions, lotions and other skincare applications, provides a wide array of options," said Alabi of Shea Radiance, who participated in the workshops. "African producers can now manufacture higher value cosmetic products for the local and international market."
Global climate change has refocused mankind’s efforts around the world to ensure human activity does not contribute to historically high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and preserve and promote environments that hold carbon – so-called “carbon sinks.” Shea trees are a perfect example of a big win on both fronts.
At Shea 2011, a tree grafting workshop showed participants how to make the qualities of a mature tree part of a sapling, a time-tested technique that is common in the cultivation of mango trees. Grafting mango trees has helped produce larger fruit, reduced the time for a tree to mature and expanded the varieties and flavors available from across West Africa.
“Some people believe shea trees just grow in the wild,” Lovett explained. “But in reality they are in parklands that people have managed for millennia. Empowering local stakeholders with grafting skills will not only add value but also protect and promote the entire shea industry.”
Grafting shea trees at Shea 2011: Sustainable Solutions.
Cultivating shea trees also fights desertification, which preserves the fertile soil in the Sahel – protecting and promoting food security for millions of people.
The two companies had not met face to face until Shea 2011’s business-to-business forum. But once they were seated – amid the noise of dozens of similar meetings organized by the USAID Trade Hub’s market linkages and shea teams – business was soon done. The deal will supply over 100 tons of unrefined shea butter to a buyer in the U.S. – generating jobs and income in West Africa.
The potential for shea is enormous, experts at the conference agreed. In the food industry, global demand for chocolate continues to grow by about 3% annually, noted Robert Simmons of LMC International, a leading international trade monitoring organization.
While chocolate consumption has increased, however, shea butter prices have fallen, he told participants – because chocolate confectioners are using more cocoa powder and less cocoa butter to make products, he said.
The Global Shea Alliance’s strategic goal to establish quality standards can help ensure that women shea nut pickers see a greater piece of the profit pie, stakeholders agreed, which would significantly impact livelihoods across West Africa, a 2010 USAID Trade Hub study showed.
The study showed that increasing sales of shea in villages by $1,000 added $1,580 to the local economy – significantly improving livelihoods. The complete study is available here! LINK
The impact is even more significant given that shea is a women’s business across West Africa, with more than 4 million involved daily in collecting nuts and/or processing them into shea butter for export. They live in rural communities, where poverty is most severe, where cash crops contribute significantly to family economics.
“I see along the value chain detached roofs turning into corrugated roofs, I see the huts changing into concrete walls because sincerely shea can do a lot at the grassroots,” noted Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, president of Daralkuchi Group of Companies in Nigeria and a newly elected member of the Global Shea Alliance’s executive committee.
“In Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali, women in these rural villages refer to shea as “school fees work,” said Eugenia Akuete, President of the GSA and founder/CEO of Nassakle in Ghana.
“Women use the income they get from shea to send their children to school – it’s driving education, mainly for young girls, too.”
Stakeholders from across the industry sponsored Shea 2011: Sustainable Solutions