Our innovation solves three main problems that women face at the very start of the shea value chain; unhealthy cooking practices, lack of waste management system and low yields. By solving these three problems, women not only increase their economic position through increased income, but it also creates a healthier and safer working place for them, their children and the environment.
In Côte d'Ivoire, over 150.000 women are producing shea butter for a living and on the whole continent, this number is up to 3 million women. Farmers and producers are almost all female, and their position, especially in Côte d'Ivoire, is vulnerable. Most of the women are illiterate and their income is low. This is particularly striking in a sector where the end consumers pay up to a hundred times the amount of the price that those women receive per kg.
Shea nuts are processed in different steps, and three of these processing steps consist in boiling the product on a fire, in most cases by burning wood. These traditional cooking practices of burning wood and/or charcoal represents a major health threat in Sub-Saharan Africa, causing over 22.000 deaths per year in Côte d'Ivoire only. Women and children, who spend the most time around the fires, are those who are the most affected by household air pollution caused by these methods. Moreover, traditional cooking contributes to air pollution, emissions of greenhouse gasses and represents the second factor of deforestation in Côte d'Ivoire, country that has already lost 84% of its forest.
In addition, the processing of shea nuts produces waste that consists of nutshells, oil, and shea cake that is often thrown away next to the processing site. Untreated, this waste creates a danger for humans and environment, eventually forming oily mud puddles.
Lastly, agricultural yields in Côte d'Ivoire and in West Africa in general are amongst the lowest in the world mainly due to the low access of agricultural inputs of quality. This is the case for shea trees as well. Although exact numbers on yield potential are unavailable due to a lack of research, a significant improvement in yield is widely expected when applying the right agricultural inputs.