Government has been called upon to set up Shea Board to be a dedicated agency to holistically support the shea sector to unearth its full potentials and boost the income of rural women shea pickers as well as earn increased foreign exchange.
Mr Zakaria Iddi, National Coordinator of Shea Network Ghana (SNG), who made the call, said establishing a dedicated agency for the shea sector, would also help to promote and develop the industry in the country.
Mr Iddi made the call during the launch of the 12th annual International Shea Conference in Tamale on Tuesday.
This year’s conference being hosted and jointly organised by the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) and SNG with support from the EXIM Bank Ghana from March 11 to March 13 in Accra, will bring together all business associates and shea interest’ groups around the world to share latest information about the sector.
The event, which is on the theme: “Unveiling the Value of Shea”, will also offer opportunities for showcasing recent products and technologies in shea as well as create the platform to network and connect stakeholders in the shea value chain.
Mr Iddi said the absence of Shea Board was affecting the shea industry in terms of low prices for the shea commodity, no budgetary allocation to the sector, destruction of shea trees amongst others, which had effects on the lives of industry players especially poor communities, who depended on the commodity.
Shea is a major commodity found in the northern parts of the country and parts of Brong Ahafo and Oti Regions where many of the residents engage in the value chain from picking through processing to generate income to take care of their families.
However, the absence of a governing authority such as the Shea Board left the industry unregulated, a situation which, affected the fortunes of the industry.
Mr Iddi said “For the rest of our generations to come, shea will continue to have greater impact on the income security of rural women in particular and the sectors key challenges need attention and policy action.”
He, therefore, called on government to list shea under the Economic Plants Protection Act NRCD 47, which currently applied to only cocoa, to guarantee incentives and compensation to rural women in communities whose economic shea trees were cut down to give way for government projects.
Mr Prince Obeng, Executive Council Member, GSA said annual exports of shea from the country in 2016 stood at 59,500 metric tons, which were equivalent to 17 million dollars direct incomes for women shea collectors and eight million dollars for their communities.
Mr Obeng, who is also the Board Chairman of SNG, said over 28,000 women were trained in shea processing while about 600,000 women engaged in the shea value chain to earn incomes.
He appealed to all to avoid bush fires as well as felling of the shea trees for burning charcoal to protect the trees.
Mrs Mariam Iddrisu, Municipal Chief Executive for Sagnarigu assured of government’s commitment to developing the shea sector, adding, this was why it opened a shea operational secretariat in Tamale.
Mrs Iddrisu commended stakeholders for their continued commitment to promoting the shea industry in the country.
Mr Bright Evans Darko, Head, Business Development and Projects, EXIM Bank Ghana expressed the commitment of the bank to increasing the capacity of women shea collectors through provision of equipment amongst others to improve their operations.