Shea butter supply chain – Mali
Dibaro and Fabougou villages – Municipality of Doumba
- Providing support to the community of women of Dibaro and Fabougou villages in the processing of shea butter.
- Safeguarding shea trees from damage linked to drought, due to climate change.
- Organizing the women involved in the project in a cooperative, and enabling access to the Fair Trade market for shea butter produced in the villages.
Si Lakana in Bambara (the lingua franca of Mali) means literally “protection of the shea tree”. Shea trees only grow in a few areas in sub‑Saharan Africa, but the precious butter extracted from its kernel is an ingredient found in most cosmetic products, and is therefore well-known globally. The processing of the shea kernel into butter is the primary source of income for women in Mali, and is used to help complement household income for needs such as medicines, schoolbooks and clothes for children. However, the shea tree is severely threatened by the effects of climate change. As a result of increasing drought, it is attacked by a parasite plant that grows on its trunk, kills the tree, and takes its place, pushing its roots into the ground.
“Si Lakana” is the name of a project that started life in the 2010s from an initiative of the Dibaro community, a village with a population of about 1,000 people, situated in the Malian savanna, 100 km north east of the capital Bamako. What is the purpose of this project?
In Mali, shea butter is not only used in cosmetics, it is also used in the preparation of traditional medicines and for cooking purposes. Due to its extraordinary characteristics, for thousands of years it has been strictly forbidden to cut down the shea tree. Although the temporary suspension of this ban would stop the spreading of the parasite, the inhabitants of the village are afraid that this could make the trees prey to those looking to make a profit from cutting down the trees in order to produce and sell charcoal. Therefore, they decided to set up the “Bengadi” association, and to launch the “Si Lakana” project. During the dry season, when the tree bears no fruit, they gather in small groups and go from tree to tree eliminating the parasites using a meticulous procedure, which safeguards the plant.
Terìa supports and promotes this local initiative, which has strong environmental connotations, and has the goal of preserving the artisanal practice of shea butter production, and protecting the women who produce it.
In 2019, Terìa established a partnership with the Bengadi association and started raising funds to support the work of eliminating the parasites from the shea trees, as well as to support the women who produce the butter.
Thanks to many private donations, since 2019 Terìa has funded the clearing of approx. 1,100 shea trees, and 48 women from the village are currently involved in the project.
The Associations’ goals for 2021-2022 were to build a workshop for the production of shea butter, to buy a mill for the pressing of the kernels, and to obtain certification of the workshop for the export of the butter through the Fair Trade market. This latter stage of the project aims to create a cooperative that will include all the women of the village currently involved in the “Si Lakana” initiative, and to lay the foundations for future further growth.
Thanks to the substantial amount of private funds raised in January 2022, Terìa started building a workshop for the pressing of shea kernels, using clay bricks, according to local building tradition, and an electric mill was procured in the capital, Bamako. The mill will be used by the women of the Bengadi organization for the production of shea butter, and is also available to the local community for the processing of cereals and legumes into flour, as well as couscous.