AAK has entered a new public-private partnership that will improve the livelihoods of 13,000 women farmers in northern Ghana and secure future supplies of sustainable shea.
Responsible shea sourcing has brought AAK closer to many of the women farmers who rely on shea kernels as a key source of income. Now, this way of working has provided the foundation for a ten-year partnership to improve the living standards of 13,000 women in northern Ghana, preserve the wild-growing shea trees and meet the growing market demand for high-quality shea kernels.
Along with AAK, the partners in the public-private coalition are Mars, USAID, the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F), CARE International, and Presbyterian Agricultural Services (PAS).
Women in Shea Initiative
Called the Women in Shea (WISH) initiative, the project builds on AAK's Kolo Nafaso shea sourcing program and has three core objectives. The first is to help the women to a higher income by improving the efficiency and quality of the shea harvest. Secondly, the project will equip the women to produce other crops that can provide an additional source of income. The third goal is to raise awareness of natural resource management to ensure the long-term conservation of shea trees in a region with a fragile ecosystem.
AAK’s primary role in WISH is to work with women from more than 150 communities in East Gonja to ensure a sustainable high-quality shea kernel supply. Mars has committed to buy from AAK their needs of cocoa butter equivalents based on shea kernels sourced through the project.
"This is a one-of-a-kind co-development opportunity, which took shape after Mars recognized the strategic alignment between our Kolo Nafaso program and its own global 'Sustainable in a Generation' plan", says Adriano Barrichello, Strategic Account Manager at AAK.
Value beyond the goals
Laura Schlebes, Sustainable Multi-Oil Manager at AAK, expects this combined know-how to create value beyond the WISH goals.
"Drawing on the experience and knowledge of the project partners, we have an opportunity to further explore and test which interventions work best within the Kolo Nafaso context.
"This is why we believe that, in addition to making a positive impact on the livelihoods of 13,000 women in East Gonja, the project could help make Kolo Nafaso even better in the future."
AAK launched Kolo Nafaso in 2009 as a small-scale project in Burkina Faso in order to bring transparency and traceability to the complex shea supply chain and address key challenges among the local women who collected the shea kernels.
Today, Kolo Nafaso provides an income for more than 320,000 women in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria. All the women are organized in groups and receive training in useful shea processing skills from AAK’s extension officers. Pre-financing is available when money runs short before the shea kernel harvest.
Since the first women’s groups started up in Ghana in early 2015, Bethany Davidson, Sustainability Manager at AAK in West Africa, says interest in the program has grown fast. Women farmers recognize the opportunity to help themselves, their families, and their local communities.
"Building and strengthening long-term relationships is a pillar of the Kolo Nafaso approach. Now also through the WISH project, the women will participate in activities that address key challenges they face", she says.
"Having a steady income, year-round, from multiple sources will go a long way towards building the financial resilience of the women we partner with. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on the stability and sustainability of our shea supply chain in Ghana."