The Assistant United Nations Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, has encouraged women in the shea butter production value chain in Ghana to leverage opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to export their shea butter beyond Ghana’s borders for improved income.
She made this call during a field visit to Women in Kumbungu in the Northern Region of Ghana, who have been supported by UNDP through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) to export organically certified shea products in the international market.
“We need to do more to support our women to enable them to embrace quality, improve their production skills while taking advantage of AfCFTA to broaden their market access. This can be achieved through policy instruments, technological support, trade, and direct technical support”, she noted.
Ms Eziakonwa underscored the critical role of women in promoting sustainable livelihoods and called for more partner support to help them to develop their entrepreneurial skills to increase production. She expressed UNDP’s commitment to continue supporting shea butter production through the new Green Climate Fund’s $54.5 million ‘Ghana Shea Landscape Emission Reductions Project ’.
She added that UNDP will continue to support other economic activities by women for the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development. On behalf of UNDP, she further pledged an additional one million Ghana Cedis during the visit, to support the women shea butter producers to acquire more machinery to facilitate their operations.
The Northern Regional Minister, Hon. Shani Alhassan Saibu commended UNDP for its continued support to promote inclusive development in the region.
“I thank UNDP for its support to our women shea butter producers and for the pledge to commit additional funds to the project, as this would further improve the capacity of the women to do more to increase their incomes for the benefit of their families and community to help alleviate poverty”, Hon Sani stated.
On behalf of the women, Hajia Rabiatu Abukari, Producer of Malti Products and Director of Ripples Ghana (an NGO), who is leading the women shea producers, expressed gratitude to UNDP for providing them with equipment, training and for supporting them to acquire the international certification. She described the UNDP Africa Director’s visit as a recognition of their hard work and noted the visit and the additional support would motivate them to continue working harder.
“The visit by Ms Eziakonwa is an indication that our work is being recognized and we are inspired by her encouraging words and the additional support. We will work harder to continue to uphold quality standards in our operations and increase production to meet demand from local and international clients”, said Hajia Abukari.
Through the Women in Fair Trade Certification and Sustainable Shea Butter Production project, 7,200 women in northern Ghana have been trained in sustainable shea butter production to help them produce products that meet international quality standards. Currently, there are 244 women involved in the processing and 3,000 involved in the collection of nuts.
The project has set up Maltitian Enterprise which exports Shea Butter to foreign markets such as Saudia Arabia, Germany, Canada, and the UK, with Fairtrade Certification. The focus is now on exporting to the US and European markets and other foreign markets, which makes up 80% of the market as well other African countries under AfCFTA.