Facilitating entry into shea processing: a study of two interventions in northern Ghana
There is considerable potential for the shea industry (Vitellaria paradoxa) to contribute to the economic empowerment of women in the Sahel Region of sub-Saharan Africa. This article examines interventions in Ghana's Upper West Region at two different processing stages of the value chain, intended to facilitate women's participation in, and enhance the benefits accruing from, shea harvesting and processing. We use the responses of the nut pickers and butter processors to qualitative and quantitative field research undertaken in 2010 to explore the constraints facing women's market participation. Results showed that mechanisms to link butter producers to markets and to sources of credit were key for the development of the shea value chain in a way that retains value locally and benefits rural producers. Complementary services also facilitated participation in the butter chains. For women to benefit, the ability to negotiate and influence the terms of trade between producers and buyers is important. Such market initiatives and interventions must be considered in the context of time management of diverse livelihood strategies. Also, how financial management and benefit sharing occur within households is sure to interact with the willingness of women to participate in new shea opportunities.