A GNA Feature by D.I. Laary, GNA
Wa, Oct 20, GNA – Baraka Shea Butter, a small business organisation operating in the Upper West Region, has created sustainable income opportunities for over 400 families and women groups in remote rural communities to improve their social and economic conditions.
In these communities, women are often the primary breadwinners for their families and income opportunities are limited.
Baraka’s mission integrates social impact, business value and environmental stewardship.
Significance of Baraka
It seeks to alleviate poverty in northern Ghana rural communities by providing income opportunities to rural women and operating in a way that will ensure the financial sustainability of the business.
Baraka’s work aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations and even has the SDG logo painted on the business’s walls.
The business has worked with the women to incorporate local technology, resources and process, keeping as close as possible to the age-old hand-crafted shea butter making techniques that women learnt from their mothers and grandmothers through generations.
This is in contrast to shea butter factories that simply buy shea nuts from villages and take the rest of the value chain to their factory, where they use chemicals and solvents to extract the shea butter and remove the economic impact from women and communities.
In order to optimise community impact and business viability, Baraka has established two Women’s Enterprise Centres, one in Kperisi and one in Tabiasi in the Wa Municipality.
Both are used for Shea butter activities and then made available to the women to use for free for other farming and income generation activities during the rest of the year.
The Kperisi centre contains machines for shea nuts crushing, roasting, grinding, and has dedicated working areas for whipping, finishing and packaging and storage warehouses.
This reduces the physical burden on the women and enables the highest quality standards to meet export market requirements.
The Tabiasi Centre contains work areas and storage warehouses. Both centres are used year round for processing production from farms and other income activities.
Professor Wayne Dunn, Founder of Baraka Shea Butter, during a field visit to Kperisi processing centre, told the Ghana News Agency, that Baraka was founded on the belief that “small business can and should be a force for social good, environmental stewardship and a vehicle for personal fulfilment – and that none of this is sustainable unless the business is economically profitable at the same time.
“We created Baraka Shea Butter with one purpose in mind. To bring pure, unrefined shea butter to the world,” he said. “Every purchase of Baraka shea butter has a direct impact on hard-working women and families”.
“We believe in creating value chain that makes a difference from women who make Baraka Shea Butter all the way through to consumers who use products made from it”.
He described the process as creating an amazing product that impacts lives, families and communities.
The women who make Baraka Shea Butter do everything by hand, using the age-old techniques passed down through generations from their ancestors.
“Centuries of practice has taught them how to extract every bit of goodness from the shea nut, and that quality is now passed on in every package of Baraka Shea Butter and all the products made from it,” Dunn said.
Baraka provides direct job opportunities and additional earnings to supplement household income of 400 families in the Wa Municipality.
The intervention by Baraka, which in the “Wali” dialect means “thank you”, has lifted many poor local women out of poverty and hunger, and has also repositioned them into a more sustainable path of income generation.
It has also boosted their health status and wellbeing as many more women could now afford to renew their expired National Health Insurance (NHIS) cards to access basic healthcare.
Madam Umu-Salma Ahmed, who is a member of the Kperisi Women’s Group, said to the GNA she used to carry head pans of shea nuts and trek long distances for grinding at high cost and after that struggled to find market for her shea butter.
“We used to carry the nuts to faraway place to grind them, but now we have grinding mill and roaster here with us, and crushing machine, everything is easy for us,” she said.
Testimonies of beneficiaries
“Before Baraka came to help us, we put the nuts in big pots and prepare the shea butter, it was very difficult, and sometimes we get burnt because of the open fire.
“There was no market too, we will carry to Wa market and nobody will buy, so we carry it back home”.
Umu-Salma, who is a mother of four, also said with income from the shea butter she is able to renew NHIS cards and support her family with basic needs and school supplies, which hitherto was quite difficult to do.
Madam Mariama Saaka, a mother of six children, has been able to put three of her daughters who could not access secondary education into learning dressmaking which she said cost her GH¢ 800.00 and she paid with ease, “thanks to Baraka,” she said.
She said she was also able to pay admission fee of GH¢ 700.00 to get another daughter of her to learn hairdressing in one of the prestigious saloons in the regional capital, Wa.
The booming shea butter market the local women have established is a guaranteed market and sustained annual of income for families.
However, the women appealed for an expanded market to enable them have non-stop yearly production to help rapid transformation of the local economy and bring prosperity to rural dwellers to meet Ghana’s quest to realise the SDGs.
President Akufo-Addo said early this year at the 7th Tokyo international conference on African development that his government was pursuing SDGs’ implementation with “a strong sense of urgency, and an unparalleled commitment to act now,” which call for expanded support and an enabling environment in rural settings to help small businesses like Baraka Shea Butter to spread and provide vast income opportunities for rural dwellers and women.