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Empowering Women Through Shea Butter Production in Ghana

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Savannah Fruits Company is a private enterprise in Ghana that exports shea butter. The company was founded in 2006 with the goal of creating more direct commercial links between village-level groups of shea butter producers and global cosmetic ingredient markets. Savannah Fruits Company works directly with the women organizations to train them on how to develop high quality butter for sale into the international market.

Client Profile: Savannah Fruits Company

For generations, women in northern Ghana have passed on to their daughters the technique of manually harvesting and processing shea nuts into butter.  Shea butter is used as a cooking oil in traditional dishes and as a panacea for skin and inflammatory ailments. Hence, Ghanaian culture holds the shea nut tree in high regard, viewing it as a community resource that can neither be individually owned nor cut down. Each sturdy, oak-like tree can provide up to 45 pounds of butter per season. In addition to the nutritional and medicinal benefits they provide, the trees are an integral part of the local ecosystem, providing a natural barrier to encroaching desertification from the Sahel basin.

Shea butter production also plays a unique economic role; the activity is reserved for women, allowing them to generate an income over which they exercise exclusive control. Because this is often the only income source for a woman, shea butter is referred to as “women’s gold.” Savannah Fruits Company works in close partnership with cooperatives of women, paying premium prices and providing quality training and organizational development assistance. Because 80 percent of Africa's shea exports are currently sold as raw nuts to large industrial processors in Europe, exporting traditionally processed shea butter adds value to the product, increasing local incomes in one of West Africa's most impoverished regions.

Credit from Root Capital allows Savannah Fruits Company to purchase the butter from its network of women. By supporting Savannah Fruits Company, Root Capital is helping to ensure that these Ghanaian women continue to receive important benefits as employees, including the use of a storage facility, training in quality control, and consistent access to premium prices in global markets.