Millions of women living in the semi-arid “Shea Belt” that spans the Sahel region make their livelihood collecting shea nuts and processing them into shea butter. The global market for shea has seen exponential growth as the ingredient has become vital for the beauty and food industries. While Ghana is one of the leading exporters of shea globally, the value chain is rife with inefficiencies. The mostly rural women who make up the shea workforce struggle to make a living wage throughout the year, particularly during the off-season period from December to April.
The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) awarded a $980,000 co-investment grant to the processing company Nuts for Growth to support its transformation into a large-scale inclusive industrial processor of shea kernels and soya using state-of-the-art processing technology and best practices in operations. The Trade Hub grant is helping Nuts for Growth leverage additional working capital of nearly $6 million.
While improving quality control using U.S. technology, the grant will enable the company to share financial stability with community members, using the funds to hire at least 100 factory workers, pre-finance production for at least 20,000 women, and train soya farmers. Providing an environmental benefit, Nuts for Growth plans to convert shea waste into briquettes for
use in backyard gardens and as fuel to reduce the use of firewood. It will also improve food and nutrition security as a component of animal feed.
As a result of support from the Trade Hub, Nuts for Growth completed the construction of a factory with the capacity to process 300 tons of shea nuts per day using state-of-the-art equipment, commencing commercial production of shea butter in November 2022. To date, the company has sold more than $600,000 worth of shea nuts and created 15 full-time jobs.
Nuts for Growth saw an opportunity to improve the incomes of women in the shea sector not only by assisting them in processing raw shea nuts and allowing them to fetch a much higher price, but also by investing in the soya value chain since thousands of shea collectors also cultivate soya in the shea off-season. Nuts for Growth has begun training women in the soya value chain to improve yields.
These suppliers will earn premiums for products supplied to Nuts for Growth and will be provided stable year-round income as long-term soya suppliers. So far, the company has engaged 17,000 women in training programs and given 500 soya farmers pre-financing support. Nuts for Growth plans to expand its community support efforts as part of a broader strategy to link rural farmers to sustainable industries and markets.
The recycled feed and briquettes will be distributed via Women for Change, a network of over 71,000 women farmers in northern Ghana founded by Nuts for Growth’s CEO, Dora Torwiseh. The company aspires to grow the network to over 100,000 women while offering community support in vital areas such as education and reproductive health.
“Nuts for Growth will grow into the largest indigenously owned exporter of shea nuts and a significant producer of soya oil and soya meal for the domestic market, underpinned by one of the largest female supplier bases in Ghana,” says Torwiseh. “We will continue to pursue growth opportunities and opportunities for further value addition to key commodities in the fats and oils sector.”