The documentary film crew with some of the women.
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
It's harmattan. For real. There's been a bushfire.
Off to the bush to check on the shea fruiting.
Safia Sulemana, an early member, has a question.
One of the weekly meetings. Yes, it's payday!
Founder Warren speaks at Global Shea Event, Abuja.