One late April day, as rainy season winds its way into the Ghana landscape, a group of women gathered at a newly formed women’s cooperative to discuss the challenges of harvesting shea nuts, otherwise known there as “Women’s Gold.” The physical demands of working long hours in the hot sun, stooping over to hand collect the nuts from low lying areas, and carrying heavy loads are just some of the obstacles faced. In addition, they must be cautious to avoid snakes and other wildlife on a daily basis. Economic conditions in Ghana create a competitive environment among women, the primary collectors and processors of the Shea Nut products that Jedwards International imports and distributes worldwide. Jedwards International is honored to work with vendors who collaborate with an innovative structure striving to empower women from rural Ghana. This collaboration provides a backdrop to an evolving trend in the small country found along the western coast of central Africa; Ghana Women’s Cooperatives.
These non-governmental co-op’s, cropping up all over Ghana, have combined the humanitarian goal of empowering, training and educating women with the economic equilibrium of providing a more viable supply of Shea Nut butters, oils and oleins to the ever growing organic, natural product consumer market.
Unemployment, low literacy rates, and poor access to health services are just some of the challenges Ghana natives face on a daily basis. These women’s co-ops have established to help members of small villages rise out of poverty. They have also combined resources to find effective solutions to overcome the physical challenges described by the very women who perform the arduous task of shea nut collection and harvest as a livelihood. These women’s cooperatives also promote a sense of community and have educated women on the benefits of working together to achieve harvest goals. Women have discovered that by combining efforts, the competitive nature that negatively impacted production in the past has increased volume resulting in higher per household revenues. The co-ops have provided the women with knowledge on identification and extraction of nuts and the best methods for processing, resulting in a high quality end product that Jedwards strives to provide its customers. The efforts of these women’s co-ops also enable certain shea products to be classified as Fair Trade Certified. Fair Trade Certified ensures products were made with respect to people and our planet by adhering to a rigorous social, environmental and economic standards to promote safe, healthy working conditions. In addition, it advocates protecting the environment and empowering communities to build strong, thriving businesses. It’s a win-win!
In a country where there is a cultural belief that domestic violence is acceptable means in marriages, Ghana women have historically been subservient to their spouses. Thanks to the initiatives of organizations like those that Jedwards International works with, great strides have been taken in improving the quality of life for these women and their families. This training has assisted in tipping the economies of scales by providing the women with a more equitable income for the work they do throughout the harvest process. The cooperative trains these women to select, handle and process the best Shea Nuts while preserving the natural qualities of the plant. In addition to technical training, Ghana women who take part in the non-profit cooperative also receive training in health and safety at work and disease control. Children benefit with medical assistance and communities work together with the cooperative to build better facilities for schools, libraries, and health clinics. The objective of the cooperative is to overcome poverty and improve education, and create better opportunities for health care, as well as provide access to technology and address environmental issues. Jedwards International hopes to give their customers some consolation that they strive to promote socially responsible sourcing worldwide.