Women in Sagnarigu and Walewale have benefited from a Japanese government grant of about 86,000 US dollars to help them in the processing of shea butter in the Northern Region, to help raise their living standards.
The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) had also approved an amount of about 246,000 US dollars for projects expansion for the women in shea butter processing in Walewale and Sagnarigu.
The grants, given to the Africa 2000 Network -Ghana (A2N), through the Japanese Embassy in 2007, had already been used for shea butter infrastructure development in Walewale in the West Mamprusi District and Sagnarigu, a suburb of Tamale.
A2N-Ghana is a local community-based civil society NGO, launched in 1989 under UNDP with support from governments of Japan, Canada, France, Denmark and Norway, aimed at empowering local women to reduce poverty.
Mr. Tsuyoshi Shigeta, an official at the Japanese Embassy, speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the Sagnarigu Women's Shea butter processing and soap making centre at Sagnarigu on Monday, expressed Japan's readiness to help grassroots human security projects schemes.
He said the grant was aimed at helping the Walewale and the Sagnarigu shea butter processing centres to develop their capabilities through the provision and expansion of their working areas.
He said Japan decided to help women in the north because a great number of them were depending on shea butter and shea related products for their livelihoods.
Madam Adisa Lansah Yakubu, Executive Director of A2N said over 80,000 women in Northern Ghana depended on incomes from the sales of shea butter and other shea related products for the very survival.
She said in line with A2N-Ghana's vision of ensuring that women enjoyed sustainable livelihoods, it had developed a solid track record in supporting capacity development of local women and other rural community members for poverty reduction.
She said some 679 women from 18 communities in Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions had so far been trained under the project, which had created the avenue for the women to form groups whose membership stood at about 538 and were all into shea butter processing.
Dr Kamil Kamaluddeen, Country Director of the UNDP expressed gratitude at the judicious manner the grants had been put to use and commended two women in the Sagnarigu Shea Butter Processing centre, who showcased Ghana's shea butter and shea products in Tokyo last year.
He thanked the government for creating the enabling environment for the initiative to thrive and the continuous leadership and support it had given to UNDP programmes in the country.
Mr Stephen Sumani Nayina, Northern Regional Minister said, with giant strides made from shea products there was the need for the Shea Nut industry to get a separate board from that of Cocoa Board, since the two served different purposes.
He said the Northern Regional Coordinating Council would consider putting in place community fire volunteers aimed at addressing the bush fire menace to protect shea nut trees from perennial fires.