In May the Farmers Voice Radio (FVR) team travelled to Tamale in northern Ghana to launch a new FVR project. The project is working with female farmers involved in the harvesting of shea nuts and the production of shea butter; a highly desirable ingredient used in many food, cosmetic and hair products, as well as being a staple in local cooking.
Northern Ghana is one of the principle areas where shea nuts are grown, but deforestation and climate change are decimating shea tree parklands. At present, demand for shea butter outstrips supply – representing an excellent business opportunity for women, who desperately need to improve their household income.
In Ghana, women gather the shea nuts from the trees and process the shea butter (a very labour-intensive process). However, most do not have the knowledge or information they need to generate a quality product and find a buyer who will give them a fair price. Radio is the most effective way of sharing knowledge with the farmers; it is trusted, inclusive and quickly reaches thousands in their fields or in their own homes. FVR is bringing these shea nut gatherers and butter producers together, along with local agricultural experts and community radio stations, to produce radio programmes that provide exactly the right information needed by the women, at the right time of year and in the language that they understand.
Hannah D and Hannah C (nicknamed Hannah Squared by the team!) conducted a training and planning workshop with the amazing project team, hosted by our partners CARE International in Tamale. The participants included our two fantastic radio presenters, Kate and Osman from GBC-URA FM; Listener Group leaders and farmers from Jawani and Tariganga, Sahada and George; agricultural extension officers from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Titus and Fausta; and Gladys and Agnes from CARE International. We also welcomed Shani, an associate of our BRAVE [HD2] partner, the Walker Institute, and expert in RAINWATCH; and Madam Fati and Thomas from the Tungteiya Shea Butter Association.
One of the key outputs of the workshop was identifying the targets for the Farmers Voice Radio programmes, which are:
- Improving the quality and volume of shea nut and butter production
- Improving market information and access for collectors and processors
- Improving the health and safety of collectors and processors
- Improving the environmental sustainability of shea in target communities
A cross-cutting theme of improving access to relevant and downscaled weather and climate information and supporting adaptation was also identified.
We also developed a Radio Programme Plan that laid out the priority issues that the radio programmes will address over the coming year. These included how to avoid snakebites when collecting shea nuts; when and how shea nuts should be collected to get the best quality; how to protect shea tree seedlings; finding alternative wood fuel strategies to deforestation; the process for producing high quality shea butter; and the different markets for selling shea nuts and butter.
One of the highlights of the week was a visit to Mbanayili, a shea butter processing centre, hosted by the Tungteiya Shea Butter Association. Tungteiya supply shea butter to The Body Shop and have remained true to their values of promoting women and the development of the producer communities. During the visit the team were guided through the full shea butter making process, which is all done by hand and is focussed on making the highest quality butter. The radio presenters interviewed some of the association members and the Executive Chair, Madam Fati, and links were made between the communities of Jawani and Tariganga and the Association.
Sahada is a farmer from the community of Jawani and the Listener Group Leader. Sahada really enjoyed the visit to Tungteiya and she was very keen to report back to her community everything she has learnt, and to include it in the radio programmes. She told us ‘I like so many things about Farmer Radio because I hear what is going on in farming and I am ready to put it in to active work as a farmer, who is picking shea nut’.
This project is funded by UK Aid’s Small Charities Challenge Fund, Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, the Gibbs Trust, Edith M Ellis 1985 Charitable Trust, Ashworth Charitable Trust and the W. F Southall Trust. We want to thank all our generous donors and supporters for enabling this important work, which is strengthening the livelihood of thousands of shea nut gatherers and butter producers and their families across northern Ghana.