Source:savannanews24.com/Hamza Lansah Lolly
Shea Network Ghana with support from Star-Ghana and DFID funding have formed Shea Collectors Movement to take action and demand their rights in the management and governance of the Shea resource.
The Shea pickers drawn from twelve (12) districts in the Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper West and Upper East regions were trained and coached how to engage community leaders and duty bearers to demand their rights.
The districts includes; North Gonja, Central Gonja, West Gonja, East Gonja, East Mamprusi, West Mamprusi, Savelugu, karaga, Mion, Gushegu, Lawra, Lambusie, Kasena Nankana East and West.
The formation and training of the Shea Collectors Movement is under the Gender Empowerment and Social Inclusion Shea Project (GESI-Shea Project).
The GESI-Shea Project is an advocacy project been implemented by Shea Network Ghana in collaboration with four other Civil Society Organisations and supported by Star-Ghana. The grant which span from 2017 – 2020 seeks to include marginalized women and excluded social groups into the long term decision making of the Shea parklands management and sustainable investment.
The Shea industry has been identified as major contributor to the Ghanaian Economy with export volumes of 70,000mt annually. The sector is a major source for employment and incomes for 900,000 shea pickers and 7,000 butter processors located in rural comminutes in Northern Ghana.
Despite the enormous contribution of rural women in the growth of the Shea industry, the Shea tree is managed mainly by clan heads, traditional authorities and male farmers. The traditional system leaves ownership and control in the hands of men making it difficult for women and other social groups to have access to Shea parklands.
Speaking at the training and formation of the movement, the Executive Director of Shea Network Ghana, Mr. Iddi Zakaria said, shea pickers are still marginalized in the management and governance of the Shea parklands, adding that, women continue to suffer even at the value-chain addition.
He said, “Shea Network Ghana have been looking at what can be done to ensure that women are actively included into the added value chain. If you look at the rewards and benefits it is more at the downstream, those who are in the middle value chain addition seems to be benefiting more…. Our focus to see what we can do ensure that the primary collectors gets the value in it”
Mr., Iddi said the training of the shea pickers to form the Shea Collectors Movement is aimed at empowering marginalize women especially women in shea to take action and demand their rights to be included in the governance and management of the Shea resource.
He is however optimistic that, the Shea Collectors Movement will be formidable to demand their rights in the inclusion of the management and governance of the Shea in their localities.
The Shea Network Ghana Executive Director hinted that, the network made up of private actors, buyers, women pickers, and Shea-entrepreneurs have made several strides over the years to improve the lot of shea pickers, especially in the areas of women rights and protection of the shea tree.
He said, the network have engaged traditional authorities, clans hands and duty bearers the need to allow women to have greater access and control over the shea parklands.
Mr. Iddi revealed that, communities are now making lands and the Shea trees available for women to have greater control. “The traditional authorities still have control over the shea trees, but we have what we call a useful rights that is ‘I owned but I put it into good use’. These women will put it into good use shea parklands, they will protect the land and plant on it, so as time goes on we can have urbanize areas where we can grow Shea trees as a community”
Mr. Iddi believed that, the shea tree can only be protected from degradation and destruction if shea pickers are given the full control to protect and manage shea parklands.
A shea picker Madam Gladys Salapete is very hopeful the formation of the movement will enable women to actively participate in the decision making level in the Shea management and governance system.
According to her, the Shea Collectors Movement will not only take action but will give voice to all the 900,000 shea pickers across the country.
Gladys Salapete, a resident of Damongo, capital of the newly created Savannah Region said, the destruction of the shea tree is becoming more rampant and urged for more regulation to protect the shea.
She said, their livelihoods and that of their families depends on the existent of the shea tree, “this shea is for we the women, our lives depend on it. So we must protect it from bush fires and cutting”.
Madam Salapete who was representing the Christians Mothers Association in Damongo on behalf of the Shea Collectors Movement thanked the Shea Network Ghana and its partners for the enormous support to marginalized women in the shea business.