The Executive Director of Savanna Plantations – a Tamale-based plantations development organisation, Issah Suleman, has called for legislative reforms and bespoke policies to protect the shea sub-sector from collapse.
According to Mr. Suleman – whose expertise is in shea production and research – the lack of dedicated policies to guide the sub-sector has led to a rise in the felling of economically viable shea trees which serve as a source of livelihood and revenue generation.
He proposed an amendment of the current law to decouple the shea sub-sector from the cocoa sub-sector, which is under the remit of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD). This, he believes, will allow for more focused interventions in the shea industry.
“The sector boosts revenue and employment generation for an estimated number of 900,000 rural women farmers who collect, process and trade nuts and butter, and is currently faced with lack of funding and implementation of a regulatory body to help position the sector for growth and increased production volumes.
“It is estimated that over two million Ghanaians depend on the shea industry directly and indirectly for their livelihoods. The industry is also able to generate employment and income for about a million rural women in Northern Ghana, who are involved in picking nuts and marketing processed Shea kernels and Shea butter,” he explained.
Mr. Suleman noted with concern that plantations at Daboya in the Savannah Region and Wungu in the North East Region are being destroyed by bushfires, while the rest are being cut down to be used as firewood by unknown persons.
Another challenge, according to him, is the lack of financial support in growing shea trees outside the wildlands.
The shea expert noted that the inability to nurse and cultivate new trees could lead to a collapse of the sector in the near-future, and warned that this would render jobless most rural dwellers that depend on the sector for livelihoods. “The government can invest more into seed production to plant more shea trees. This would help create more jobs in the country and alleviate poverty in the rural areas,” he said.
He also appealed for funds to embark on nursery production of shea trees. He said the two shea factories established in the Northern Region are not operating at full capacity, despite sustained demand from some international buyers. He therefore called for the revamping of these factories and establishment of more.
Mr. Suleman explained that his outfit has been embarking on capacity-building training for some farmers and processors, with the intention of whipping up their interest in shea production.