On the 7th of November, 2012, I will be speaking at the 4thPan African Competitiveness Forum-PACF conference in Abuja. In 2011, I facilitated a partnership between the Tamale Shea Cluster Initiative-TaSCi and Shea Yeleen International with the objective of creating a sustainable local and international market for women shea butter producers.
ThePan African Competitiveness Forum (PACF) was launched on April 16, 2008 as a new continent-wide competence and action centre for innovation and cluster based competitiveness initiatives for national and regional economic development in Africa. This year the theme for the conference is Evolving Cluster Initiative for African Development: Issues and Modalities.
The shea sector holds enormous opportunities for the development of northern Ghana, especially economic empowerment of women. An estimated 900,000 women in northern Ghana are involved in the collection, processing and trade in shea nuts and butter. The shea trade has been estimated to gross about $33 million annually and contributes significantly to household incomes (communique, 3rdAnnual Shea butter Stakeholder Forum- October, 2011).
However, there are a number of challenges plaguing the sector and preventing a situation where the shea value chain is harnessed for socio-economic development. Over the years, various interest groups in Ghana and across West and Central Africa where the shea trees are prevalent have come out with a number of interventions for the sector. Among the interventions proposed recently by the Ghana Shea Network include; annual budgetary allocation to an independent board modeled around the Cocoa marketing board to facilitate trade and marketing, conservation of the shea tree due to its economic importance through enacting national and local laws as well as enforcing indigenous environmental regulations. Others include the establishment of a National Research Program to achieve shorter tree gestation period and productivity.
I will draw attention to the role being played by Shea Yeleen International, a US registered organization that uses access to the United States market to enhance the productivity of women shea butter producers and also improve incomes. Women are trained in production methods, cooperative capacity building, and innovation in production techniques and improvement in research through partnership with local and international institutions, leading to an increase in minimum wage from $30 to $70 monthly. The case study will highlight a partnership with the Tamale Shea Cluster Initiative- TaSCi, outlining the programs and projects designed for improved export earnings and most importantly, enhancement of product quality and improvement in standards of living. The objectives of the partnership create market access, build capacity, undertake research, organize producers into viable cooperatives, enhance production methods and conserve shea trees. In the coming year, the partners will engage in advocacy to draw up support for initiatives being implemented and also highlight one of several issues government needs to tackle. One of such issues is the need for government to negotiate for markets on the international and sub-regional levels to contribute to efforts at creating a sustainable market for the shea nuts/butter commodity.
The conference ends with a tour of some clusters in Abuja on the 9th of November, 2012.