Insecurity, COVID-19 hit women-led shea sector on eve of Africa free trade deal - CIFOR

Women have dominated shea production and sales for centuries in West Africa, managing trees, gathering nuts, roasting and crushing kernels to create rich butter used in cooking, cosmetics and medicines.

 

This women-led shea market value chain now faces increasing uncertainties on various fronts, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

A deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso has seen the country “replace Mali at the epicenter of the Sahel’s security crisis” over the past year, as countries in the semi-arid region engage in increasingly volatile battles against insurgencies with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

 

To explore the potential impact of multiple changes affecting domestic and international trade in shea, the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) – a multi-stakeholder platform comprised of government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, research and women’s shea producer associations – recently organized three online sessions for a “Virtual Shea Lab.”

 

The shea trade has been seen by Europeans as a potentially lucrative investment opportunity from at least the early 20th century, said Andrew Wardell, a principal scientist with the Center for International Research (CIFOR), who delivered one of the presentations during the event.

 

“Various historical, political, economic and social threads are becoming entangled and should be addressed to protect the industry as the region confronts a confluence of significant crises and changes,” he said.

 

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