We handcraft our Shea butter in the Northern region of Ghana, West Africa under fair trade and organic standards. How it all started.
A jike Shea Centre is a social enterprise which was established to empower rural women who are the backbones of their families. Located at the Northern Region of Ghana, West Africa, the centre was created not only to provide sustainable stable income in the Shea butter production but so that these women can also start other businesses that would be an additional source of income so they are able to send their children to school throughout the year.
When Ajike, a Nigerian from Ibadan, who is living in Ghana came in contact with one of the women in the community from whom she buys Shea butter for her hair and body butter, she learnt of their hardship and how middlemen have been taking advantage of their situation. She finally visited the women in their communities after a 14hrs road journey from the city of Accra. There she saw their suffering and hardship first-hand as she saw very old women in their 70's still producing Shea butter because according to them, they would go hungry if they stopped and so they continue until they can no longer walk to the wild to pick the Shea nuts nor have the physical power to kneel during Shea butter production. Their children also cannot support their aged mothers because they are all in the village as subsistence farmers who also have to depend on their mothers for support. These women are so poor that they could not afford to take passport photographs!
Before the centre, these women would risk snake bites in the wild to pick Shea nuts that drops from the Shea trees during harvest season, produce unrefined Shea butter after series of tedious processes and get to sell their Shea nuts and butter cheaply to middlemen on credit who will pay 3 weeks later after these middlemen sell with a very high profit margin. Producing at the centre gives them the opportunity to be in charge as they not only get paid by the centre for the fresh Shea nuts they have picked but in addition, they are employed and get paid for the production of their Shea nuts into butter.
"When I came in contact with the women, I would give them both new and used clothing items and cash donations. I knew that in as much as those were helping them, it wasn't going to solve the problem of poverty in their communities but a sustainable and stable income would. From writing my project work in my final year at the university on 'Gender Discrimination, The right of a Woman in Perspective' in 2005 to my humanitarian work as a of women empowerment groups including Women International League for Peace & Freedom, (WILPF) Ghana Chapter and a member of the CommNet, a fraction of Women Peace Institute, Koffi Anan International Peace Keeping Institute, Ghana, I knew I had to do something to change the situation of these women and their communities as a whole. For me, it is more of a purpose than a passion" - Ajike Adebimpe, Founder
Our vision is to empower and see women in our centre and every woman in their communities gain financial freedom and their children able to attend school all year round.
Fair Trade is a term that talks about better prices, decent working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers.
We pay 20% above the market price of of raw shea nuts, our producers get almost 30% what other shea butter producers in their region get. We also give 10% of our profit as premium which goes into the cooperative fund for their support. A 10% pension plan also exist for our women to fall back on. We encourage members to start a new business to support their Shea butter business by giving them business ideas on what else they can sell in the open market and how to go about it.
- DIGNITY: We respect our Shea butter producers because they provide the world with unrefined Shea butter.
- FREEDOM: We want our Sheaqueens to gain financial freedom through their hard work. This is why we pay them for their nuts and also for the production into butter. Part of the premium we pay them is also for them to start other businesses.
- FAIRNESS: Our core value at Ajike Shea Centre is FairTrade because we appreciate their skills, tradition and knowledge and in compensation for that, we honestly and fairly pay them for the time and energy put into Shea butter production.