Suppose that you are a Ghanaian woman living in a small community and that you have a skill such as the ability to turn shea nuts into shea butter. Suppose you also know that if you could produce more butter there is a ready market for it. What is holding you back? Two major obstacles are access to capital to increase your volumes and buy the materials needed and access to expertise in selling shea outside of the regular community to the big buyers.
Working in partnership with a local community based organisation WERSD (which stands for Women’s Empowerment and Relief Services for the Destitute) Tzedek has been able to help about 100 women in three communities in Tolon District by providing them with a capital fund with which they can buy large amounts of shea nuts, 20 sacks at a time. WERSD providing training on butter production to a high quality and their own in-house skills through the knowledge of their Project Co-ordinator Inusah Idrissu, who’s family have traded in shea butter for many years.
The women come together every week to process large amounts of shea through the different stages of washing and picking clean, drying, taking it to be milled, roasting the milled nuts, getting it milled again, mixing with water until the shea fat emerges, boiling it down until it is clear and finally packaging it into boxes for transportation.
The quality of the product is maintained through the watchful eyes of the Magazia (Chairman) Abdul Fatawu Aminatu and other members of the Executive. Charlie, Our Ghana Country Director visited the project at Cheshegu village and saw the results of their first 20 bags of shea nuts processed pilled up as 16 boxes each weighing over 30 kgs. The final batch of milled nuts was being processed and they will finish up with at least 20 boxes of good quality butter. They have already had plenty of offers for their product but Inusah is scouring the market to make better long term connections with buyers who will guarantee prices. He is planning to ensure the group gets at least 10 Ghana cedis per kilo and they will have over half a tonne to sell. “The women are able to meet the costs of schooling their children and to make improvements to their household purchasing,” says Magazia Fatawu.
The money is shared back into the group members but they have a box scheme to ensure that enough is set aside for their next purchase of nuts, enough to pay back the capital so that it can benefit another community and some to take home for themselves. The plan is to process 20 sacks a month which will hugely increase their income. Within six months there should be enough in the fund to start a project with another 100 women in other communities in Tolon.
“My ambition is to see the women’s incomes increase ten fold within one year” says Inusah “from 2.5 cedis to 25 cedis a week.”