The shea sector holds high potential for effective contribution towards rural poverty alleviation, particularly gender related poverty in northern Ghana. Almost all rural households in northern Ghana depend heavily on shea for their survival each year.
The crop which is mostly harvested, processed and sold by women, supplies more than half of the annual income of most rural women. The shea tree is highly valued for its fruit. The pulp of the fruit which contains proteins and carbohydrates is enjoyed by many and the kernel is the source of shea butter which is valued for its use as traditional cooking oil.
Shea has evolved to become an important ingredient in the confectionary, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The global trade in shea has increased significantly in the last decade. Shea has become one of the leading non-traditional agricultural exports in Ghana. This presents an opportunity to improve rural female incomes in Northern Ghana and to contribute towards reducing the North-South developmental gap.
It is therefore proper that efforts are being made to revamp the shea industry by COCOBOD. Since 2009, COCOBOD have re-energized its activities towards improving the shea sector of Ghana. In addition to strengthening research activities that were already being undertaken, a separate unit called the Shea Unit was established and tasked with the responsibility of undertaking programmes and projects as well as advancing new policies towards the sustainable growth and development of the shea industry.
COCOBOD has also established a National Steering Committee on Shea under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Chief Executive (A&QC) of COCOBOD to provide the necessary governance for revamping the shea sector.
A national strategy for growing and sustaining the shea industry is currently being articulated for the first time. The document (Shea Development Strategy, SHEDS, 2012-2030) is expected to provide the short, medium and long term strategies for improving research and plantations development, promoting product development, marketing and quality standards as well as building strategic partnerships among the various stakeholders of the shea industry in the next 20 years.
COCOBOD has also instituted a floor price for sheanut purchases to prevent exploitation of women and guarantee them a minimum income from shea and its by-products. COCOBOD, in collaboration with the Department of Co-operatives and other stakeholders in the industry, is undertaking programmes to revitalize women shea co-operatives into commercially viable entities. In line with our mandate, the Shea Unit has reviewed the regulations and guidelines for the marketing of shea, streamlining the operations of shea buying and processing companies.
It is obvious that the framework for the revamping of the shea industry in Ghana is gradually and systematically being established. With the commitment of COCOBOD to implement the policies, programmes and strategies through the provision of financial and materials resources and the co-operation of key stakeholders, the shea industry will experience sustainable growth and development. This is expected to result in higher income for the women producers.