Globalization in a nutshell – Opportunities and risks for women shea producers in West Africa
Shea fruits, nuts, and butter are non-timber forest products from the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), the most widely occurring species in parklands in West Africa. The region accounts for almost all exports of shea, with Burkina Faso being one of the main exporters. The fruits and butter serve as important ingredients in the diets of rural communities while the commercialization of surpluses is an important source of income for women.
The growing global demand for shea nuts and shea butter, in addition to pressures to intensify local agricultural production systems to meet the demand for food and wood for fuel, pose new threats to the sustainability of shea parklands and for women’s livelihoods. In addition, economic and environmental services provided by shea parklands are of increased importance to local communities, whose precarious rural livelihoods are increasingly threatened by climate change.
This project will address two main questions. Firstly, as shea market dynamics shift due to transnational regulatory frameworks and the large-scale bulking-up of shea nut purchases by middlemen to supply transnational corporations, what are the implications on the livelihoods of rural women producers who occupy the value chain’s upstream point, and the shea parklands upon which they depend? Secondly, in a context of climate change and increasing pressure on shea trees and products, which strategies can enhance the sustainability and equitable management of shea parklands while maintaining women’s access to shea resources?
The key outcome generated by this project will be the improved governance and management of shea parklands and shea value chains to reduce the vulnerabilities of women to economic and climate shocks. To achieve this objective, the project will use a combination of approaches including participatory research, household methodologies, social learning processes, field research, global commodity chain analysis, a multi-level governance approach and development of improved policy, regulations, and practices. The latter would incorporate such aspects as regulation, accreditation, access to credit by women, tenure rights, and improved market access for shea products.