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Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

The shea tree grows in all components of the arid savannah of Ghana’s Northern and Higher Areas. Over all this massive space the villagers have historically harvested the shea nuts and extracted its butter to be used as a physique cream or for making cleaning soap. Regardless of its utility, the shea tree has by no means been grown on plantations as a result of it’s mentioned to take sixty years to bear fruit. This truth may assist forestall the village girls who produce the shea butter dropping management of the commerce within the face of on-going efforts to industrialise the manufacturing course of.

The Expertise Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Expertise (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, first got here significantly into contact with shea butter within the mid-Seventies when a search was on for an alternative choice to palm oil in cleaning soap making. At the moment the accessible palm oil was not enough to satisfy the native demand for cleaning soap. The officer answerable for the undertaking, Peter Donkor, was experimenting with a variety of options together with castor oil, physic nut oil, second grade cocoa butter, coconut oil and neem oil.

It was well-known {that a} conventional cleaning soap referred to as ‘amonkye samina’ was constructed from shea butter utilizing a lye extracted from the ash of burned cocoa husks. Made on this approach a tender potassium cleaning soap was produced which is claimed to be mild on the pores and skin. Cleaning soap of this kind is marketed in Western nations in liquid kind as a particular beauty product, however in Ghana within the Seventies it didn’t meet the necessity for a general-purpose laundry cleaning soap. A tough cleaning soap may very well be produced from shea butter by utilizing a sodium lye however the TCC by no means succeeded in acquiring a enough provide to maintain manufacturing at its cleaning soap pilot plant at Kwamo village.

The crux of the availability drawback was the very gradual nature of the normal shea butter extraction course of. Peter Donkor alerted scientists within the chemistry and biochemistry departments of the necessity to discover a sooner methodology of extraction and some experiments had been carried out however nothing of sensible worth emerged. The matter rested for nearly a decade earlier than Solomon Adjorlolo of SIS Engineering Ltd took an curiosity in the issue.

For a few years, SIS had been manufacturing and promoting small-scale mechanised vegetation for milling corn, producing gari from cassava and extracting palm oil. Adapting a few of his established machines and designing no less than one new one, Solomon Adjorlolo produced a prototype shea butter plant and appeared for a possibility to check it. Working by means of the TCC, the prototype plant was transferred from Kumasi to the Intermediate Expertise Switch Unit (ITTU) at Tamale within the Northern Area the place the shea tree is plentiful. The checks had been profitable; the mechanised plant may produce rather more butter in at some point than a village staff of girls may produce in per week by the previous methodology.

Now arose the hazard of gender shift. It had usually been noticed in Ghana and elsewhere that as quickly as a standard village business was mechanised, and the routine drudgery was eliminated, the business was taken out of the fingers of girls and run by male entrepreneurs. So care was taken by the Tamale ITTU to make sure that the SIS plant remained within the take a look at village within the cost of the ladies who had collaborated within the testing. Later, when the German assist company GTZ funded 4 extra shea butter vegetation, these had been additionally allotted to established girls’s teams with a few years expertise of shea butter manufacturing.

It was about this time that the BBC got here to Ghana to make a movie with the well-known British industrialist Anita Roddick, founding father of the Physique Store chain of magnificence shops. The theme of the movie was to be feminine entrepreneurs pioneering new enterprise actions and the BBC contacted the TCC for assist in figuring out such folks in Ghana. So Anita Roddick met the shea butter producers of the Northern Area and was very impressed, not solely with their enterprise however with the standard of their product.

The primary order for shea butter positioned by the Physique Store was for 4 tons for use for experimental functions. The matter moved forward slowly however by the early Nineteen Nineties a Truthful Commerce settlement had been negotiated with a long-established exporter, Wonoo Ventures Ltd. Inside a number of years the annual export of shea butter to the Physique Store exceeded 100 tonnes, and the key a part of the revenue was being returned to the feminine producers and their village growth funds. And that is the best way it ought to stay for a few years, as a result of it may take sixty years to ascertain a productive shea tree plantation to feed a large-scale centralised extraction plant.

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