The fruit produced by the shea tree is a very sustainable crop, the cultivation of which requires no fertilizers or pesticides. Growing wild in an area known as the shea belt, which stretches across western Africa, the shea tree is an important source of income for the communities that live in this area.
Traditionally, it is women who collect the shea fruit and process the kernels it contains. Income earned from the crop provides women with funds to alleviate poverty and hunger, to invest in children’s education and capital to support other income-generating activities.
Understanding our supply base
Together with our partner Proforest, we have conducted a risk assessment of the general shea supply chain. AAK has identified, and is working on, the following priorities for responsible sourcing throughout our shea supply chains:
- Shea trees are lost due to use as firewood, planned burnings, grazing of cattle and the expansion of living and farming areas due to population growth
- Water used to boil shea kernels.
Health and safety
- Snake and scorpion bites during harvest
- Long walks to fields and parklands
- Exposure to the sun
- Exposure to open fires during boiling process
- Lack of transparency due to middlemen in traditional supply chain
Engaging with suppliers and farmers in the traditional supply chain
Our general shea dashboard below helps guide our compliance and sustainability work in West Africa. More information is available in our shea progress reports here.
Engaging with suppliers and farmers in the Kolo Nafaso supply chain
In 2009, AAK established our direct women’s group supply chain Kolo Nafaso. The direct link to hundreds of thousands of women allows us to successfully mitigate many challenges we have identified in "Understanding our supply base" (see above) more directly, and to be more impactful.
Traditional shea supply chain
- No plantations - agroforestry
- Extensive networks of middlemen providing logistics
- Important extra income for individual women
Women's groups supply chain - Kolo Nafaso
- AAK has taken responsibility as market leader
- Direct sourcing from women
- Extension officers providing extra training and support
The Kolo Nafaso dashboard below helps us track of our progress in the program. More information is available in our shea progress reports here.