The absence of one stop holistic policy and regulatory frame work for the Shea sector has contributed to the slow growth of the sector.
The Shea sub-sector in Ghana has been experiencing cross cutting policy interest from a number of government agencies and institutions due to the crop’s relevance as a trade, agricultural, livelihood, gender base, forest and environmental roles.
At the district and regional levels, the sector is subjected to geographical policy decisions due to its local economic importance and traditional ownership in prevailing areas. Nevertheless, there have been efforts made over the years in seeking to improve the policy and regulatory environment of the Shea value chain.
These are mainly through the Cocoa Act, The Tree Crop Development Policy (TCDP) and drafted Shea Sector Development Strategy (SHEDs) as well as the upcoming Sustainable Management of Shea Parklands Strategy (SM-SPS).
Shea is a variable name that makes comprehensive clarity when associated with another name on the basis of the crop botany, product of utilization and description of segment of the value chain.
From the perspectives of the botany, the name is applied as Shea tree-Vitellaria paradoxa (formerly Butyrospermum parkii), Shea crop, Shea fruit, Shea nuts and Shea kernel. In terms of the associated value-added products, the terminology is featured as Shea butter, Shea soap, Shea oil, Shea perfume, Shea cake as well as Shea biomass. It is common to have the name associated with Shea sector, Shea policy, Shea parklands and Shea plantations among several pointers of description of the value chain such as Shea women collectors.
The Shea sector has very high potential for Ghana from the perspectives of environmental restorations & carbon sequestration, contribution to local economic development and rural transformation of Northern Ghana.
If well supported, Shea sector could contribute to increasing government export revenues similar to earnings from cocoa and other developed value chains. The historical limiting political will and commitment to formulate a holistic one stop policy and regulatory master plan to address the sector issues remains the topmost root cause of its marginalised impact unlike the cocoa sector.
According to the draft Shea Sector Development Strategy (SHEDs, 2015-2030), overtime COCOBOD relaxed its rules and regulations and the sector did not have any effective government presence; as such there are no policies and strategies to ensure the sustained growth and development of the sector.
This resulted in the setting up of the Shea Unit under COCOBOD to drive strategy development for the sector through the National Steering Committee on Shea (NSCS) to provide the necessary governance framework for the Shea Unit both in the short and long run in 2011.The Unit in 8 years developed the draft SHEDs which is yet to see government adoption for implementation.
Comparatively, the Shea industry observed that cocoa as a commodity saw significant investment and enjoys lots of political attention and commitment from the regulator than Shea among others in carrying out the mandate. This is because Cocoa is more traded internationally and a major cash earner to annual government budgets. COCOBOD could not invest so much in Shea because the business case for Shea is not self-sustaining as the enterprise did not raise funds to cater for its operational cost.
In limited instances, Cocoa resources had to be used to finance Shea, an arrangement considered not self-sustaining. It was therefore not strange that Shea sector did not see significant growth from this regulatory framework and provides opportunity for another rethinking of the regulatory and policy arrangement of placing Shea and cocoa in same governance arrangement.
Sustainable Management of Shea Parklands Policy (SM-SPS)
The natural occurrence of Shea in the Northern Savannah ecosystem provides a legal mandate and strategy responsively for governance by Forestry Commission (FC) and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) especially in reserve and protected parts of the forests.
These roles include protection and development of naturally occurring Shea tree plantations as well as efforts at restoration and rehabilitation of savannah landscape to ensure the ecological and economic integrity of the Shea landscape.
Although two strategy document have been developed in the past by Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) – Tree Crop Strategy and now draft strategy document (SHEDs, 2015-2030) by the COCOBOD there is still policy gab in the areas of improving the Shea tree stands in the wild and efforts at community active participation in Shea tree propagation among other levels of the value chain. This is what informed the SM-SPS formulation with funding by the FAO as an addendum to the Forestry Sector Master Plan of the MLNR.
The focus of the policies is closely related with a greater attention on reinforcement of the shea value chain to benefit the upstream women collectors in particular. The vision of the TCDP is a Competitive and Sustainable Tree Crop Sub-Sector, with a focus on value chain developed and improve technologies to create job opportunities to ensure food security, enhance the environment and improve livelihoods, that of the SHEDs is to achieve a sustainable Shea industry contributing increasingly to a poverty-free Ghana and evident in the enhanced benefits to all actors in the Shea industry.
Sustainable Management of Shea Parklands Strategy (SM-SPS) envisions a Shea sector in which the savannah Shea landscape provides maximum environmental and economic benefits to local and national economy whiles guaranteeing the integrity of the natural Shea ecosystem.
The new regulatory arrangement of placing Oil Palm, Rubber, Cashew and Shea under the TCDA is welcoming and provides the opportunity for better support due to functional, agronomic and geographic similarities and ease of classification. All the listed crops are major non-traditional export commodities with high potential for rural wealth creation.
Shea and Oil palm are major Cocoa Butter Substitutes (CBS) and mostly exported as Cocoa Butter Equivalence (CBEs) to similar market destinations and as such placing them under one regulation is promising. Cashew and Shea have similar climatic requirements and suitable as perennial crops for promotion in the savannah landscape as agro-forestry tree crops among small scale farmers.
With the lessons from the cocoa sector, it is hoped that the TCDA will commit to developing self- sustaining mechanisms to transform the Shea sector for the crop to take its space as an emerging industry of socio economic and environmental relevance to the savannah landscape.
It is also hope that all other flagship programmes related to Shea such as Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) will be regulated by this Authority to avoid duplication and confusion of roles at the grassroots.
>>>The writer is a development and agribusiness advisor and the national coordinator for the Shea Network Ghana. He can be reached on 0244598828