On Thursday January 28th, 2021, SFC staff traveled to the remote community of Murugu located near the Eastern border of Mole National Park to hand over a brand-new organic shea butter processing center. The recipients of the processing center are women who belong to the Community Resource Management Areas, CREMA. By having four CREMAs take ownership of this center, eight local shea butter cooperatives in the area will produce more shea butter at a fair price by fulfilling bulk orders from The Savannah Fruits Company. This results in consistent work and income year-round for these cooperatives and their families.
This new facility creates hundreds of new job opportunities for local women, making this an exciting occasion to have the center finally be open for business. Women from the area can opt to collect local shea nuts from the indigenous trees and sell their harvest to SFC. They can also choose to become a shea butter processor and use the newly minted organic shea butter processing center to prepare the shea nuts into organic handcrafted shea butter, which SFC requests bulk orders for.
The day began with handing over the keys to the Organic Shea Nuts Warehouse to the Mognori community. Shea nuts that are collected from local shea trees within the four CREMA designated communities will be kept in this warehouse. These bags of raw shea nuts will then be brought to the community of Murugu by motorized tricycle or SFC trucks where they will go through the process of being made into high quality handcrafted organic shea butter. In August of 2020 SFC also organized a donation of a motorking tricycle from skincare line, Maison Karite, for this very community. Supporting these women in moving shea nuts by providing transportation technology speeds up the amount of time repetitive tasks take to produce handcrafted organic shea butter.
SFC partnered with a handful of organizations to successfully open this organic shea butter processing center in Murugu. Other organizations involved with partnering and funding this initiative along with SFC included: A Rocha Ghana (a conservation NGO) and Noe (Man and Nature, a French NGO), AfricanTiger Holding, Evolution of Smooth (EOS), Dessange, the National Committee of the Netherlands of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-NL), the French Development Bank, USAID and Global Shea Alliance.
The importance of this occasion is evident by the large attendance of dignitaries who traveled all the way from Accra and beyond to this West Gonja Municipality in the Savannah Region. This included: the French and Dutch Ambassadors to Ghana (Mdm. Anne Sophie AVÉ and Mr. Ron Strikker), Traditional Authorities from the Gonja Traditional Council, and Regional Minister for the Savannah Region along with Busunu-wura, Member of Parliament (MP) for the Damongo Constituency.
This processing center is special because it has innovative new machinery that will allow the organic shea butter processors to more safely and efficiently process organic shea butter. Both the manual and motorized roasters’ unique design allow women to roast the shea nuts standing up— decreasing back pain and avoid any smoke that may be created in the roasting process. Whereas the local roasters that most all Ghanaian women use require them to bend over or squat and turn the revolving roasters while it rotates and roasts the nuts inside. The chimneys added to the boiling pots where the shea nuts are boiled enables the processors to work in a virtually smoke free space. SFC staff prepared for weeks training 32 women on how to use this equipment and familiarize them with the new center layout. The women were able to showcase their newly acquired skills using this equipment to their fellow community members and guests for the occasion. The center can now produce one ton (1000 kg) of shea butter a day. As production increases there will be shea waste biproduct that can be used as an ecofriendly fuel alternative to firewood.
Initially the project began with SFC and A Rocha visiting the community of Murugu in November of 2019 and spoke with the community about the needs of a shea butter processing center and possible land sites it could be built on. Murugu agreed to be a part of a CREMA. The CREMA agreement gives communities the authority to manage and make decisions on the use of natural resources in their geographic region. The Murugu-Mognori CREMA is one of four located within the eastern boundary of Mole National Park. The CREMAs are now committed to protect the natural resources in their geographic area in exchange for Conservation Premiums paid by SFC.
Government led CREMAs provide projects to communities that incentivize alternative income sources to unsustainable and harmful activities such as charcoal-burning, logging and wildlife poaching. Buy in from the communities is necessary to proceed with a successful CREMA agreement. The two communities of Murugu and Mognori saw the value of creating a CREMA to their communities and allowed SFC and the other partners to move forward with building the processing center.
The community showed SFC different land options that would work and agreed on the two acres of land of what is now the Murugu Organic Shea Butter Processing Center. SFC created the blueprint of the layout of the processing center for A Rocha, who was tasked to find a suitable contractor to build the physical structures needed for the center. SFC’s specialized staff continued to act as technical advisors on this initiative. They gave technical expertise to the community on the details of what is needed to set up a successful organic shea butter processing center. SFC staff made countless trips to Murugu to meet with the community women. They were properly trained on how to use and maintain the equipment and property in a sustainable manner. Our staff organized several trainings for 32 community women on the various stages of organic shea butter production so they are now experts themselves.
During the festivities of handing over the center to the CREMA located in Murugu and Mognori, a Conservation Agreement between the CREMAs, the Savannah Fruits Company and A Rocha Ghana was signed. This document commits the three organizations to a long-term sustainable partnership of working towards sustainability.
There are over 300 women who will be involved in producing organic shea butter at the new processing center. Over 820 women will be collecting shea nuts and around 1,000+ women will be impacted from over eight different cooperatives. This new opportunity greatly improves the ability to generate an income throughout the year for women in region. SFC is proud to be part of this economic empowerment and environmentally friendly initiative. This is only the beginning of a fruitful relationship between SFC and the CREMA at Murgu!