Here on the East Coast of America, at the hub of JUST SHEA and One Village Planet-Women’s Development Initiative, we have just dipped our toes into spring and day light savings time is bathing us in much needed light. While across the sea, founder Danielle Warren is living in Ghana for the rest of this year (2014). This is where our villages are and there is no lack of light or warmth there.
Of course we still need your help, support and ardor, but we have some nice forward motion to report as well for this spring:
Women in the north of Ghana are lining up (175 of them!) to join the JUST SHEA program and we want to enroll as many as we can and get them safety gear. However it does cost 250 dollars for each set of protective gear, training, interest-free loans and resource sharing like access to the collective storage silo.
If you learned enough, and want to stop reading here and skip to the end to help purchase more gear and enroll more deserving women and their cute kids, just do it. Leap to the DONATE BUTTON below.
But if you want to know more about why our JUST SHEA program is successful read on…
The JUST SHEA program empowers women who are members to use the resources they have available to them in order to lift themselves and their children out of poverty. We provide, ACCESS, VISIBILITY, ECONOMIC and SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR WOMEN THE WORLD ROUND.
Shea is a 3.5 billion dollar industry, and it’s growing too. It is the primary job of the 16 million women across sub-Saharan Africa who harvest it from the forest floor. Without them, the trade would not exist! And without protective gear there are no safe harvests. And without silos to store their harvest and access to finance, the women earn a pittance, meaning no FAIR TRADE.
JOIN US in supporting fairly traded, safely harvested shea nuts and butter.
Here are some highlights of what we have on the horizon:
Danielle and our on-the-ground Ghana wizard Fati are going to the Global Shea Alliance conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to speak about best business practices for collective shea nut warehousing in the end of March. Wicki is staying in NYC to plan a big Charity Buzz Auction coming soon featuring the wonderful Alysia Reiner from Orange is the New Black, as well sales and outreach projects.
Upon return to Ghana Danielle and Fati will be starting socio-economic and health data surveys and quality control trainings with 100 of the newest members women who want to join the program from neighboring villages of Diari and Zosali.
Additionally, we have another 75 women from nearby Savelugu who already received training and were surveyed when Danielle was in Ghana during November. These women are anxious to get their safety gear and start depositing their sheanuts in the warehouse. This will allow them to avail themselves of interest free loans using the shea they store as collateral. Then they can invest in educating their children and planting other cash crops.
Now it’s your turn.
Support a woman to join the program: $250 covers all the expenses of surveying, training, safety gear, and loans.
Consider making an ongoing monthly contribution to the loan fund. Even ten dollars a month can make a huge difference.
So JOIN US!
Wicki, Danielle, Fati and the Just Shea Women.
Dear Supporters All-- Well, we at One Village Planet-Women’s Development Initiative and our sister organization Just Shea are finishing a very exciting year – one chuck-a-block full of accomplishments and pride. We want to share some tid-bits with you, because, frankly, without the energy and support you offer us, we would never be this successful. First, news about the women in Ghana: the harvesters who are the heart and soul of this project, due to the silo you helped build and the ability to store high quality sheanuts, will double their income because they joined the Just Shea Program this year! Take this in: They double their income. Because of you. And because of this success we have a waiting list for more women to join. It costs $250 to enroll each new Just Shea member. This includes protective gear, training, interest-free loans, coco sacks and a place to store their collective harvest. Our products are gaining in popularity and with each sale, more and more people learn about the difficulties and dangers the harvesters face and how we are helping. Just Shea Products are now at ABC Home and at Urban Zen. In fact ABC Eyewitness News thought we were noteworthy and did a great piece on us and the women in the Just Shea Program. Give it a watch! And then hit the donate button and help enroll more harvesters. Here’s to a prosperous and equitable New Year for us all! Danielle, Wicki and Fati and the Just Shea Ladies
Shea season is just wrapping up in Gushie and the Just Shea Women are hard at work drying their shea nuts in the sun before they bring them to the quality control site for approval, bagging, and loading into the silo we worked together, so many of us, to build.
We spoke to Fatimah, our incredible Program Director in Ghana, yesterday and here is the exciting summer roundup:
Shea nuts are still being dropped off at the silo in anticipation of the 2nd collective Just Shea sale this fall. Last year we helped the women harvesters to double their income and we aim to do even better this season.
In the meantime, our project founder Danielle Warren will be returning to Ghana in November to join a group of 15 major stakeholders in the shea industry—including representatives from The Body Shop and Burt’s Bee’s—to advise on the development of the Global Shea Alliance’s Sustainability Base Code and Implementation Principles. The purpose of this group is to ensure sustainable and equitable development, with a special focus on women collectors, in the 3.5 billion dollar shea industry.
We also had a site visit from Global Giving U.K.’s very own Helen Denyer. Helen met with Fatimah and the Just Shea women in Gushie and even taped some footage of her conversations with them. Helen is still travelling, but as soon as she’s back she’ll be sending us the videos…So make sure you’re following us on the Just Shea Facebook Page, where we’ll post the video interviews with the women in Gushie for you as soon as we can!
Oh! And, if you haven’t seen it already, take a quick 2 minutes to enjoy this great stop motion animation video about the Just Shea Program produced by our young and talented intern Isa Goldberg.
Thank you all so very much for your support for these incredible women! We couldn’t do what we do without you! So keep the love a-comin’ and help us spread the word!
Danielle, Wicki, Fatimah, Lucy, Isa and the Gushie Just Shea Collective
Our organization continues to grow and to set high goals and standards for ourselves and the participants in our Just Shea Program.
We have just submitted to USAID - at their request - to assist the expansion and replication of the Just Shea Program you have been supporting. It improves access to safety, healthcare and education for shea harvesters and their families in Northern Ghana. It is a tremendous honor even to be asked to apply and, so while we wait with fingers crossed, we are also celebrating that our work to date has been noticed by such an august international funder.
Further in that arena, we spoke at the Global Shea Alliance Conference in Manhattan. There were experts from around the world addressing issues such as establishing standards for safety and quality with this increasingly growing commodity. Earlier in the spring, founder Danielle Warren was asked to speak at a division of this same conference in Abuja, Nigeria.
Danielle also spoke at a Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale and the co-founder of our social business arm (Just Shea) Wickham Boyle will be addressing a group in August about social business in the beauty industry. We are attempting to utilize both our growing acumen in the fields of shea and social business to improve the visibility of the women sheanut harvesters and to grow our networks of influence and impact.
As a result of our growing network, photographer Adam Ottke came to Gushie, the village in Northern Ghana where our pilot program is housed. Adam took some truly stunning photographs, which we have submitted to the upcoming GlobalGiving photo competition. Stay tuned for more on that!! (They will also be available to donors through GlobalGiving this December!)
Our social business Just Shea, has been experiencing some much deserved notice since expanding to two more retail venues in New York in the last few weeks. Our products will now be carried at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen stores in Manhattan and in Sag Harbor, Long Island.
Since our last report, you have helped us raise the funds to provide and distribute 25 additional sets of protective gear for the women shea harvesters who are a part of our collective program in Gushie. This gear protects them from snakebites and allows them to work more efficiently, thus garnering them a better harvest.
We are also in the process of training new members of the Gushie Just Shea Collective. In addition to the 50 women we now have in the program (Wooohooo!) a further 57 women have also just been trained by our in-country program director Fatimah Zubair. The training allows women to harvest more safely and to store and sell a higher quality product!
Another huge place of pride for us is that, as a direct result of the collective silo, the harvesters were able to DOUBLE their earnings this past spring. As our fundraising efforts continue both on GlobalGiving and in future in-person events, we aspire to give protective gear to an additional 100 women who have signed up for the program.
Join us in celebrating our work and perhaps take a moment to enjoy a short, 2 minute, film produced by our young, and oh so talented intern Isa Goldberg as part of her high school senior project.
We are ever proud of all the women who grace us with their energies, passion and prodigious talents.
Wicki, Danielle, Fatimah, Lucy, Isa and the Gushie Just Shea Collective
As spring comes to the North East and we all anticipate warmth and growth, in Northern Ghana, where our One Village Planet’s Just Shea program is housed there are already crops in and women participating in our Collective.
Let us give you some back-story. A few years ago, our founder Danielle Warren, traveled to Ghana in the hopes of finding sustainable crops that could be imported to the dry Northern region of Haiti where she was working. Instead she found a grand, sustainable crop in the shea trees, which produce shea nuts. This crop is a growing, world-wide commodity. (It's probably in your shampoo!)
Although it is not importable to Haiti, as the shea trees grow wild and take 25 years to start fruiting, what Warren and partners did was to form a cooperative to help the shea harvesters in a tiny village called Gushie.
The women harvesters are often bitten by poisonous snakes, as they have no protective gear. No boots, no gloves or gear to protect shoulders and heads. So we decided to create a cooperative to encourage harvesters, all of who are women, to get a full set of protective gear exchanging the gear for shea nuts.
Last spring we reported to you that we had spent a month building a cooperative silo, a 16 by 60 foot structure on land that our non-profit One Village Planet-Women's Development Initiative purchased along the main North South road in Ghana. The structure is called the Gushie Women’s Shea Nut Collective and those women began both storing their own crops in the facility and charging others to utilize the storage area. (Smart women!)
By delivering protective gear we increased the safety and size of the harvest. And by aggregating the crops, storing many women’s harvest together, we posited that we would radically increase the price women garnered for those crops. They would no longer be sitting by the side of the road selling small amounts and thus they would save time and buyers, multinational buyers, would begin to know that the Gushie Collective offered top quality, safely harvested crops and it could be found well stored and easily accessible.
Well it turns out...we were right. And this past week, when Founder Warren was on site in Gushie the first payment to the women harvesters was distributed. Our crop was purchased by a socially responsible buyer and as a result we were able to distribute double the usual amount of payments to the women.
This literally doubled their income from last year.
We had a film crew following Danielle and the collective right at the time when this first payment was distributed and the trees were starting to fruit. (A filmmaker from the US was asked to create pilots about ordinary women doing extraordinary things, and Danielle and Just Shea were chosen.)
Further the women have targeted doubling the number of bags they harvest. And this may well be possible because the protective gear increases the speed and efficiency of the harvest and it increases the time the women can spend working in the field.
The members have all expressed excitement with the outcome of the payments and are now challenging each other to further increase the harvest amount. To that end there will be a completion: first, second and third prize to see who can harvest the most. Prizes include cloth, cooking oil, soap and other simple luxuries. (Want to donate to the prize fund? We'd love that!)
The women in the collective also elected a new organizer, they serve one-year terms, and we purchased a simple, dedicated cell phone so our wonderful Program Director Fatimah and we can stay in in close touch to set up meetings and facilitate programs.
We are a young program and do expect there will be many ups and downs, but this spring was a time to celebrate. We had anticipated that we would merely increase the women harvester’s income, but we went beyond that and actually doubled their income.
Pretty amazing, right?!
Thanks to all of you.
Danielle, Wicki, Fatimah and the Just Shea Program Team
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