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As part of its STARS program, ICCO supports female shea nut collectors and shea butter producers to unite themselves into cooperatives and to diversify their activities. Two cooperatives, of which the Songtaab Yalgré Association (ASY) and the Ouezena Federation (FO), testify how this support helped their organizations to professionalize.
According to the Vision 2025 report, published by the Ministry of Agriculture in Burkina Faso, agricultural entrepreneurship in Burkina Faso is still at an “embryonic” stage. This situation can be explained by a number of constraints, including limited market access and poor processing skills and equipment of local products, as well as the low quality of these processed products.
For Karim Zone, ICCO Cooperation’s STARS Value Chain Development Advisor: “Supporting the economic empowerment of women through agricultural entrepreneurship is an important lever in the context of Burkina Faso where 80 percent of the working population operates in agriculture. However, female agricultural entrepreneurs lack access to quality inputs, land, time and markets.”
STARS program intervention strategy
In Burkina Faso, STARS supports 18 cooperatives to professionalize by providing them with technical and financial management skills and by supporting them to develop new business plans that focus on diversifying their activities. Once cooperatives improve their operational capacity, they are linked to private sector partners and financial institutions. Both ASY and FO were linked to the Danish buyer of shea kernels, AAK. The cooperatives also received training on how to produce cosmetic products such as ointments and soap.
Case of the Songtaab Yalgré Association (ASY)
The Songtaab Yalgré Association, one of the very first shea cooperatives in Burkina Faso, has been working for more than two decades to meet market demands for processed products such shea butter and ointments, soap, lip creams. Despite this ambitious goal to diversify their product range, growth numbers left behind due to a number of operational difficulties, leaving the cooperative in a financially critical position.
When supported by the STARS program, the organization seized the opportunity to diversify its range of commercial partners by integrating shea kernels in its product offering, as this is where there are promising market opportunities. This has not only improved the financial performance of the organization but also improved the income of the 1,200 female members of this organization.
A 3-year contract was signed between ASY and the company AAK for the sales of shea kernels under the Fair For Life (FFL) label. The contract states that in addition to a premium price, a fair trade premium of at least 10% of turnover will be paid. Another quality premium will be paid when the cooperative can guarantee quality standards related to the moisture content and the acidity rate of the kernels.
In 2019, the cooperative received a quality premium and a fair trade premium for their produce. The cooperative decided to invest the premiums into their communities; by donating school kits, gas stoves and by providing members with materials that help them store and transport their products better.
According to Sonia Nare, who is the cooperative’s economic and social affairs manager: “The effects of the relationship are very positive, especially in terms of increase of ASY’s turnover and also in terms of benefits for women within our communities. For this campaign, AAK even gave us 6,000 shea seedlings, which helps to reforest our parks and preserve our environment.”
“However,” she adds, “due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prices offered by AAK have dropped slightly which is due to a drop in demand from customers and the closure of borders. Nevertheless, we still look forward to a fruitful collaboration in the future for both ASY and its members. ”
Case of the Ouezena Federation (FO):
Located in the southern part of the country, the Ouezena Federation has made the production of shea kernels and shea butter its main activity for the past ten years. This activity allows the 1,200 women members of Ouezena to take care of their agricultural activities and to diversify their sources of income.
However, for the cooperative itself, apart from producing almonds and butter, it did not put other products on the market. In 2018, the STARS team trained the female members of the cooperative by training them in the production of laundry soap and toilet soap. In 2019, more training followed; members learned how to produce body ointments and lip creams.
For FO’s manager, Ms. Adana: “This support through training has enabled us to acquire skills and to set up a team of 15 producers who are working on the production of soap and ointments continuously. In addition, with the skills acquired, we even train women from other organizations who request our services. Our products are well appreciated in the market even if the quality of the finished product can always be improved. We are working on this with the support of the STARS program. “
According to Karim Zone: “Moving forward, we will provide training in leadership and change management to all leaders of partner organizations. We would also like to share success stories and failures between participants. Through practical cases, participants will be able to share experiences in the management of their different organizations.”