Savannah Fruits Company Brings Sustainability and Transparency to the Shea Supply Chain

Headquartered in Tamale, in the Northern Region of Ghana, Savannah Fruits Company is an artisanal shea butter and plant-based oils and soap company. The company was established in 2006 on the foundational belief that businesses can operate successfully, and profitably, with minimal environmental impact and positive contributions to the social welfare of the communities they work within.

Savannah Fruits Company (SFC) first began operations in Tamale, Ghana, working with local women who had been collecting and processing shea for generations. SFC established itself as a buyer of shea nuts and set up cooperatives of women who would handcraft shea butter using traditional techniques. Over the last 16 years, the company has expanded, working with more than 15,000 women in Ghana, and setting up shea cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. SFC sets itself apart by providing a fully traceable and transparent supply chain from the collection of the shea nuts in the shea parklands in West Africa to the processing in local communities.

The West Africa Trade & Investment Hub, in October 2021, awarded SFC co-investment grants of $1.47 million to support the company’s commendable contribution to transparency and equity in the shea value chain. Over the course of their Trade Hub partnership, SFC will establish 28 organic shea processing centers with equipment that will improve production scale and efficiency, workers’ health and safety, and product quality in Ghana, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire. The grant, additionally, will enable SFC to provide capacity building and business support for the women in their shea co-operatives and establish market linkages from villages to SFC export production facilities across West Africa, and further to U.S. and international cosmetic companies.

As of the last quarter of 2022, SFC had made significant strides in its Trade Hub project. Notably, leveraging their Trade Hub grant, SFC received a $500,000 investment from Unilever North America that will provide an appreciable boost to their operations. In operational milestones, the company has to date trained 645 female shea kernel collectors in Côte d’Ivoire on organic quality control and upgraded organic shea kernel processing centers in Côte d’Ivoire. In partnership with U.S. company Burn Design Lab, SFC established 6 new organic centralized shea kernel centers in Ghana with new boiling sheds equipped with Burn Lab’s efficient steaming stoves, drying platforms, and racks. SFC significantly scaled up purchases from the women’s cooperatives, purchasing organic shea kernels worth $337,423; organic shea butter worth $18,871; and conventional shea butter worth $219,365. These were all refined for eventual export to U.S. and European markets.

Moving forward, SFC plans to upgrade an additional 13 centers in Ghana to improve efficiency and working conditions while reducing the use of firewood (replacing it with shea waste, a more sustainable alternative). SFC will also continue to provide training and support for the women in their shea co-operatives whose incomes are positively impacted by SFC’s fair-trade and organic certification. 

“By supporting the locally handcrafted shea butter processing method, women within SFC’s network can process all year round,” remarked Sofia Durrani, Head of Sustainability and CSR, SFC. “This allows them to generate added value within their communities, keeping them with their families rather than having to travel outside their regions for livelihoods.”