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Shea: Building partnership for progress through women's gold

To unlock the shea value-chain in Mali. That’s the aim of the public private partnership ICCO has with USAID Mali, the World Agroforestry Center, Olvea Burkina Faso, and SOATAF.

Shea: Building partnership for progress through women's gold

In its third and final year, this program has made tremendous achievements. The number of beneficiaries and annual sales tripled. Recently another 3-year program was approved by the Global Shea Alliance to build on the achievements.

The shea nut, known as ‘women's gold’, is one of the most important income generating crop for women in the shea producing regions of Mali. Therefore, the production and marketing potentials for shea offers considerable economic opportunity and enhanced socio-economic resiliency of families.

Reducing poverty through better organization

Mali’s shea endowment and market demand for its products are considerable. It is estimated that Mali exports only about 60% of the annual potential of 250,000 tons. The shea value-chain in Mali is plagued by weak private sector investment, lack of capacity for many cooperatives to provide quality products that meet regional and international markets standards, underdeveloped storage facilities, and aging parklands.

Yet, the production offers economic opportunity. There are chances to reduce extreme poverty, empower women, and improve food security in shea areas, which could help lift the rural economy out of its vicious cycle of perpetual subsistence. These opportunities can be achieved by increased private sector engagement, improved capacity of local actors (i.e. cooperatives, microfinance institutions), better organization and training of the main producers, adapted warehouse facilities, and improved parklands management.

Tremendous achievements in three years

The 3-year initiative to unlock the shea value-chain in Mali is paying off. In its third and final year, this program has made tremendous achievements. First, the target number of beneficiaries has more than tripled from an initial target of 12,000 women to 38,000 women.

Additionally, the  annual sales from the cooperatives to the private companies SOATAF and Olvea has increased from less than 200.000 Euros to more than 700.000 Euros.

Finally, the program has been catalytic in attracting to expand and consolidate the program. For example, to build on the achievements of the first year of the program, USAID Mali awarded in 2016 another 2-year program to ICCO Regional Office West Africa to develop beeswax program with 3.000 women beneficiaries.

New initiatives for long term improvement

Most recently, the Global Shea Alliance, approved another 3-year program to build on the achievements of this program under the newly USAID awarded sustainable shea initiative program.

The objective of the sustainable initiative is to contribute to increased food security, sustainable income, gender equality, and resilience of 40,000 women mainly in the Shea producing regions of Mali (Sikasso, Segou, Koulikoro, and Kayes).This will be achieved through several initiatives, such as brokering secured, fair, and long term contracts between the Shea cooperatives and private companies. Also planned are: improving storage, by building adequate warehouses and training women cooperatives on storage management (warehouse receipts system); training the cooperatives in business development/entrepreneurship, and Shea quality; and finally improving Shea parklands by developing Shea plants nurseries and training the cooperatives on grafting and pruning to protect the trees.

ICCO and Public Private Partnership (PPP)

Over the last 8 years, ICCO has built a solid experience in managing PPP program in the region. It has implemented several PPP projects in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.