Tuesday, 25 September 2007

African gold

In this case I'm not talking about gold in South Africa, instead they are gold from agriculture.

According to New Agriculturalist, the shea nut is worth its weight in gold, and is called "women's gold" in Burkina Faso. In the past it was primarily used as an alternative for cocoa butter in chocolate and exported unprocessed. Now however, its main use is as a moisturising ingredient in cosmetics, and increasingly it is being exported in a processed form, which increases the profit, though the situation is changing with demand for the beans increasing.

It grows on trees found only in Africa, north of the equator and between the Sahara Desert and the tropical rain forest. The trees live for 300 years.

Photo from USAID

The ripe nuts are boiled, dried and shelled, then roasted and pounded into a paste with water.

Photo from USAID

Some of the producers in Burkina Faso have registered with the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation which increases profitability.

The second gold is white gold in Malawi. Dairy cows have helped smallholders out of poverty through the Heifer Loan Scheme. A family who receives an animal is expected to pass on the first female off-spring to another family in need who is also require to pass on to the next. The cows provide enough milk for the family and excess can be sold to proved other needs. The scheme has since progressed so that the recipient of the cow pays a contribution as ownership and commitment.

Photo from USAID

At present, there are 6,376 members of dairy farmers' cooperatives, about half of whom are women.


  1. I knew the importance of shea nut for women in western Africa only some months ago, thank's to the fact that shea butter (which is called beurre de Karité in french) it's the main ingredient of Nok cream, used by runners to protect themselves from rubbing and chafing. According to the Wikipedia, between 300,000 and 400,000 women work in activities related to this plant.

  2. (...300,000 to 400,000 women only in Burkina Faso...)

  3. Ah, I read your post about the magic cream, but didn't associate the two. Thanks Pablo.


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