what we do
We are dedicated to empowering women in Ghana working in the shea sector. We believe that increasing the capacity for these women to safely earn more income is the most direct way to improve their lives, and those of their families.
We focus on women because when women earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families. We focus on women because the majority of the women we work with are illiterate and their ability to earn more income determines whether their daughters escape becoming part of the world's 91 million out-of-school girls.
Our approach to halting this cycle of poverty-induced illiteracy is scalable, replicable and has its locus in the grass roots. We seek to develop, test, prove, and popularize models that significantly increase the income of poor, rural women and catalyze a cascading positive effect throughout their communities.
Just Shea Program is augmenting the health and economy of women shea collectors from the village up.
We literally save lives by providing access to protective-gear for sheanut collectors, who are extremely vulnerable to snakes and scorpions, which increases their efficiency and harvest size, and build collective warehouses for the women to aggregate a high-quality crop, so they can earn a higher price. We also offer access to finance, market links, and capacity-building trainings as we believe that solutions to the problems of access must be self-sustaining in order to succeed.
Just Shea paves wider avenues for the women of Ghana: real leverage in the multi-million dollar shea industry and a socio-economic model that may be extended throughout a disenfranchised population of millions of women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Protective gear to alleviate unsafe working conditions
Women collect sheanuts in the dark as their shea activities are not allowed to interfere with their other household and farming responsibilities. They as well do much of the post-harvest handling at night with insufficient light to do so efficiently since most have no electricity in their homes.
Women collectors also have to face poisonous snakes, scorpions, and other rainy-season related obstacles in order to collect sheanuts. Their constant worry about where they are stepping, in their flip flop, understandably decreases their harvest efficiency.
Business training for a fully self-sustaining program
The women we work with are not recipients of charity – they are entrepreneurs receiving seed funding and capacity building from Just Shea. Within three years, it is our aim that participating villages continue to earn increased income and fully self-manage the operations of the improved infrastructure so they can generate measurable results year on year.
In order to attain that level of autonomy the women need access to a variety of capacity building trainings on how to best manage and operate their warehouses, maximize the profitability of shea sales and earn additional income from related activities.
Interest-free loans for improved livelihoods and better leverage
At the beginning of the collecting season (May) a bag of sheanuts may sell for $10 USD, reach more $30 USD in late December and often more than that in April as shea becomes scarcer on the market.
Women often resort to selling their shea very early on in the season, when prices are at their lowest, because shea-collecting season begins during the “hungry months” in West Africa when household food and cash reserves are low or nonexistent. They could hold out for the price of shea to rise (by 300% a season!) and sell at a more propitious price if they had access to cash at the beginning of the season when they most need it to invest in improved livelihoods for their family.
Improved infrastructure for collective selling power
Women donʼt have a place to keep their sheanuts safe from rot and early sales and with no other option but to keep it in their house, they have difficulties holding on to it for long. This means they have little leverage with which to negotiate an equitable sale price (lack of sufficient quantity), and often end up with damaged, potentially value-less sheanuts.
They earn sub-market prices for their sheanuts because they cannot effectively aggregate and collectively market a consistently high quality product to their buyers. Collective Storage Warehouses allow them to collect and aggregate sufficient quantities of their product and sell directly to wholesale purchasers, greatly improving their profit per kilo sold.