Opinion: STATE OF GHANA’S SHEA INDUSTRY- An Advocate view point 

STATE OF GHANA’S SHEA INDUSTRY- An Advocate view point 



Shea is a variable name that makes comprehensive clarity when associated with another name on the basis of the crop botany, product of utilisation 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 has the potential to 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. 

This write up provides useful insights into the emerging shea sector featuring; State of Shea Policy & Regulations in Ghana (PART I), State of Shea Trade and Time Profile Data Analysis (PARTII) and State of Shea Tree Populations in the Savannah Landscape (PART III).




The absence of one stop holistic policy and regulatory frame work for the shea sector has contributed to slow growth of the sector. The shea sub-sector in Ghana experiences cross cutting policy interest from a number of Government agencies and institutions due to the crop relevance as a trade, agricultural, livelihood, gender base, forest and environmental roles. At 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 upcoming Sustainable Management of Shea Parklands Strategy (SM-SPS)


Ghana COCOBOD Regulation and Draft Shea Strategy 

The Cocoa Act

The regulation and strategy mandate on shea sector governance has been tied to other agricultural commodities such as cocoa and coffee and initially under the Cocoa Marketing Company of Ghana now Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD)-Provisional National Defence Council Law (PNDCL) 81, since 1984. The key objectives of COCOBOD under the law among others are to: encourage the production of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts; undertake the cultivation of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts and to initiate programmes aimed at controlling pests and diseases of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts. Other objectives of the agency are to purchase, import, undertake and encourage the manufacture in Ghana of, and distribute and market inputs used in the production of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts; promote and encourage scientific research aimed at improving the quality and yield of cocoa, coffee, shea nuts and other tropical crops as well as to regulate the marketing and export of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts.

According to the PNDC Law 81, the Ghana COCOBOD is set up, among others objectives, to  secure the most favourable arrangements for the purchase, inspection, grading, sealing and certification, export and sale of cocoa, coffee, and  shea nuts; to purchase, market and export cocoa produced in Ghana which is graded under the Cocoa Industry (Regulation) (Consolidation) Decree, 1968 (NLCD 278)  or any other enactment as suitable for export and to establish or encourage the establishment of industrial processing factories for the processing of cocoa and cocoa waste into marketable cocoa products among several others such as; to purchase, market and export cocoa, cocoa products, coffee, shea nuts and shea-butter produced in Ghana.  It is the objective of the Ghana Cocoa Board to assist in the development of the cocoa, coffee and shea nuts industries of Ghana; and to promote the general welfare of cocoa, coffee and shea nuts farmers in Ghana (Ghana Cocoa Board Law, 1984, PNDCL 81).From a policy of strict regulations on shea trade, the sub-sector was deregulated in the 1990s to allow for licensed private companies to undertake the internal and external marketing of shea. Ghana COCOBOD, however maintains a regulatory role by vetting and approving applications of private buyers seeking to purchase shea nuts. 

Shea Sector Development Strategy (SHEDs, 2015-2030)

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.


The Tree Crops Development Policy (TCDP)

In line with its agricultural sector policy and regulatory mandate, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in 2013 developed the Tree Crop Strategy (TCP) at a time that the Ghana COCOBOD was decoupled from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and rather attached to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The policy was developed alongside other tree crop species such as Dawadawa, Cashew, Shea, Mango, Palm oil, kola, Cocoa, Citrus, Rubber, Coffee and Coconut. The sub-sector has other economic trees as a focus such as acacia (Gum Arabic), avocado, baobab, and tamarin. The Government of Ghana (GoG’s) vision for the development of the Tree Crops Policy (TCP) is holistic and aims at promoting a sustainable growth of the entire sub-sector, considering the differences between the crops and the various production areas (TCP, 2013).Establishing a regulatory  frame work to govern selected tree crops forms a major operational area of the policy, which is the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA).


Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA)

The present Government has been progressive with the decision to establish regulatory body for selected tree crops in Ghana. Shea is one of the major crops (Oil Palm, Rubber, Cashew and Shea) listed in the draft Tree Crops Development Authority Bill approved by cabinet and yet to be laid before parliament for the enactment of a new law to establish the Tree Crops Development Authority. From the draft synopsis of the bill, the purpose is to establish a regulatory body for tree crops, the Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA) and recognizes the fact that tree crop development in this country has been fraught with challenges since inception. The Bill is based on the Tree Crop Policy of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ghana Industrial Policy. Government recognizes its role to provide policy direction for the development of the tree crop sub-sector. The policy provides guidelines for the development of the sub-sector and identifies the activities and areas to which technical and financial resources should be directed.


As per the draft bill, the TCDA  when established will pursue the following functions: to put in operations a Sustainable Funding Mechanism to implement the developmental programs of the authority, promote and support the development of the tree crop industry; undertake, assist and encourage scientific, technological and economic research in tree crops and  to coordinate and facilitate with relevant institutions to build capacity of farmers in best agronomic, pest and disease management and improved methods of harvesting of tree crops, and traders, processors and exporters in best practice of tree crops. The TCDA will also seek to provide technical advice to the tree crop value chain, improve the trading of tree crops, register and license persons engaged in the tree crop value chain ad as well as ensure the compliance of national and international standards for the quality, marking, labelling and packing of fresh or processed products of tree crops, imported or exported from this country.  Responsibilities of data collection and statistics from the tree crop value chain, promotion of decent work in the tree crop industry and relevant advice to the government and private sector on matters related to the development of the tree crop industry will be core functions of the Authority. 


Sustainable Management of Shea Parklands Policy (SM-SPS)

The natural occurrence of shea in the Northern Savannah ecosystem provides a legal mandate and Strategy responsivity 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 all the polices are closely related with a greater attention on reinforcement of the shea value chain to benefit the downstream 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 agroforestry 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 grassroot.







Mr. Iddi Zakaria

Iddi Zakaria Tomlinson

National Co-ordinator, Shea Network Ghana

PhD Student, Social Forestry & Environmental Governance 

Department of Forest Science 

University of Engery and Natural Resources, 


+233 206-463-114



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