The Pro Vice Chancellor of the University for Development Studies (UDS), Prof. Seidu Al-hassan has reiterated the need for government to develop a ten-year strategic plan to transform the shea industry.
The plan, he explained, will not only ensure sustainable development for the sector through tree protection and regeneration, but also unleash huge economic opportunities in an industry that is worth over US$3billion globally.
More importantly, he said, protection and investment in the sector can help sustain the lucrative business in the northern part of the country, particularly for women groups whose lives are dependent on it.
“The development of Ghana’s Shea industry can be enhanced through protection of the economic trees that contribute to poverty reduction in Ghana. The sector also has the potential to be a leading export-earner,” Prof. Al-hassan noted.
He said before the country can achieve the widely-praised motto ‘The road to dignity for all by 2030’ for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serious efforts must be made to guarantee the continuous existence of trees – particularly economic trees such as the Shea tree.
The Pro Vice Chancellor spoke to the B&FT in Tamale, Northern Region, and noted that though Shea is ranked second on the country’s list of non-traditional commodities, little is done to develop and formalise that sector to the level of cocoa and cashew.
According to him, the Shea sector is controlled by women, and if given the needed support it could have a huge positive impact on household income for millions of families.
Government, he said, can transform the sector by identifying key players in the Shea industry, as well as from academia and research institutions, industry, civil society organisations among others, to form the core part of the sector’s transformation agenda.
“We need to ensure that people are aware of the trees’ economic potential and the need to desist from destroying them. This will help grow the business for women pickers and processors in rural areas,” he said.
He also appealed for traditional authorities to collaborate with government and other stakeholders to enforce the bye-laws in order to protect forest reserves as well the economic trees.
He added the traditional authorities need to commit more land for planting the trees, because without land government initiatives for the agriculture sector cannot be achieved.
“We need to also ensure that researchers who embark on studies are supported to do effective and efficient work,” he stated.
For instance, he said, although COCOBOD has a unit that is currently studying how to reduce the gestation period of Shea, such activities or research groups need to be encouraged to sustain their research activities to help the nation tap into the multimillion-dollar industry.
“I think the women who do the picking should be encouraged to not only focus on nuts falling from the trees, but go beyond the picking; they can help to plant new Shea trees as well,” he added.
“We are too much reliant on the export of cocoa, gold, bauxite and others; but if we should stay committed to combining all efforts – research, funding, capacity training, among others – the Shea sector will be a very sustainable industry and the country will be able to diversify its earnings,” he indicated.