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UNDP, Japan Supports Northern Women in Shea Butter Production

2007-06-10 22:22:14
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Northern Women
The Japanese Government, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has set up a project with a seed money of 245,927 US dollars, to support women in the Northern Region in shea butter production.

The amount, which was drawn out of the Japan Women in Development Fund, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is expected to help identify the marketable quality of shea butter and set up an ideal production environment for local women producer groups over a two-year period. It would also help explore new domestic and export markets for shea butter sales promotion, provide business management skills for local women's producer groups, promote the women's entrepreneurship and transmit shea butter production skills and techniques among local women processors in a coordinated way.

Mr Daouda Toure, UNDP Resident Representative at a press briefing in Accra on Friday, said the shea butter industry in Ghana, had the potential of generating multiple positive impacts on the lives of women in the Northern region, if properly coordinated and supported. He explained that the joint initiative of UNDP, JICA, Africa 2000 Network and AFRASIA Business Council, hoped to economically empower the rural women and their families to live healthier lives. He called on other corporate organizations to support the project, which had started on pilot basis in Sagnarigu in the Tamale Metropolis and Walewale in the West Mamprusi districts in the Northern region. Mr Toure said it was estimated that more than 600,000 women in Northern Ghana depended on incomes from the sales of shea butter and other shea-related products as a major means of their sustenance such as supplementing the family food budget and meeting medical and educational expenses.

"We are confident that the support would provide the needed capacity for these women and further expand market capacities for the shea butter industry to improve upon the financial status of the women in the communities," he said.

He further noted that supporting shea butter could also be an innovative solution for tackling other important development agenda of the country such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as it would not only provide income to alleviate the poverty levels of women, but could potentially evolve into a viable export industry and an avenue for job creation, while slowing down the rural-urban drift. "Shea butter can be exported for making other commodities of high marketability such as soaps and oils that had high domestic, regional and international demands."

He said as a committed advocate of women's empowerment, the UNDP had been providing support to the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) to strengthen its position in national negotiating forums and to further its objectives of promoting gender equality at both policy and operational levels.

He stated that to it intended to further strengthen its partnership with Japan and welcome other interested partners to advance the empowerment of women in Ghana.

Mr Masamichi Ishikawa, Japanese Ambassador said the support of local shea butter industry was also in line with Ghana's Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II, which underscored the importance of export diversification and of private sector as a main engine of growth. He urged local communities in the project areas to work hard to produce quality-finished products to compete favourably with other shea butter producing countries and expressed the hope that Ghana would soon become a leading producer and exporter.

"The name Ghana has already become a household name in Japan due to its quality cocoa and chocolate products and we believe that an additional commodity would be readily welcomed throughout the global market," he said.

Mr Ishikawa however stressed on quality production and packaging as a major requisite for attracting market and further encouraged the youth to go into shea nut plantation as a sure means of employment and earning income.

Mr Hiroshi Murakami, JICA Resident Representative explained that JICA and other Japanese development actors had since year 2000 been supporting rural shea butter processors in the Northern region, by providing equipment and business skill training.

He said it also assisted Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) in successfully linking Ghanaian shea butter producers with the 'Tree of Life,' a Japanese private company in the year 2005-2006. He mentioned that JICA had selected shea butter as one of the four target commodities in its Local Industry Development Study project in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and PSI that would carve out a master plan for local industry promotion. Hajia Alima Mahama, thanked the UNDP and the Japanese government for the continuous support of women empowerment programmes and efforts to reduce poverty level in the country.

She urged the women to embrace the project with much focus on expanding their production to facilitate increases in their income levels. She stated that the Ministry's budgetary allocation was not enough to support research activities and provide other technical assistance in areas of women empowerment and called for corporate support in those areas.


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