Monday 16 April, the annual European Conference of the Global Shea Alliance took place. Representatives from the entire shea value chain, from farmers’ cooperatives to cosmetics companies such as L’Occitane, came together at the headquarters of development cooperation organization ICCO. At the conference, ICCO presented its new project ‘Birds, Bees & Business’, designed to restore habitat and thus guarantee the future of shea, an important source of income for 16 million women in West Africa.
Shea: women’s gold
Most shea trees grow in the wild in West Africa. Women traditionally collect the nuts and sell them to earn some extra income. Hence the name women’s gold. Leena Lindqvist, regional manager in West Africa: “Shea butter is made from the nuts, which have many interesting properties. While the pulp contains vitamin C, the kernels have a high fat content, strong moisturizing effect and anti-inflammatory properties. Shea butter has been used for centuries for skin and hair preparations”. Today shea butter is also an important ingredient in many cosmetics made by companies such as L’Occitane, The Body Shop and Treets Traditions. But it is also used in the food industry, for example in chocolate. As global demand for shea butter continues to grow – the shea industry has grown 600% in the past 20 years - there are opportunities for the women of West Africa and ICCO is helping them to take advantage of these.
New project: Birds, Bees & Business
ICCO has been working in the shea value chain for many years in West Africa, in particular in Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana. In Burkina Faso, ICCO – together with the BirdLife Netherlands (Vogelbescherming) and financed by the Dutch Postcode Lottery – is starting up the new project ‘Birds, Bees & Business’. Lindqvist: “We will work on habitat restoration as shea trees are threatened by activities such as logging. Once shea trees can grow again there will be opportunities for people and birds: women will benefit from shea butter sales and birds from the restored habitat”. In this way shea nuts will continue to offer future generations of women a sustainable income opportunity.
About the Global Shea Alliance
The Global Shea Alliance is a network organization with 450 members from 33 countries, including women’s groups (farmers’ cooperatives), suppliers, retailers and NGOs. Through public-private partnerships the GSA promotes value-chain sustainability and develops quality practices and standards. The GSA organizes a European conference every year so that stakeholders, both profit and non-profit, in the shea value chain can meet each other and work out ways to improve the sustainability of the chain.