GHANA – Burt’s Bees, an American company that sources shea butter and beeswax, is seeking to leverage its grant received from USAID mission in Ghana through the USAID/ West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), and private investment to introduce bee-keeping to Ghanaian women shea farmers.

According to Trade Hub, for smallholder farmers in Ghana producing shea butter, bees are normally pests to swat away.

But these insects will soon prove invaluable to farmers thanks to the new US$2 million, 3-year partnership titled SheKeeper.

Under the project, 1,200 Ghanaian women shea farmers will receive training in beekeeping, allowing them to diversify and substantially increase their incomes, potentially 10- to 20-fold.

According to Sharon Cromer, USAID/Ghana Mission Director, “This partnership with Burt’s Bees will increase private investment and demonstrate that shea collectors can profitably produce and sell beeswax, shea, and honey to meet growing demand for these commodities.

“Additional private investment by Burt’s Bees will create greater economic opportunities and a better quality of life for more of the 16 million women collecting and processing shea across 21 African countries.”

Crops like shea benefit from pollination from beehives. Shea plants within a 2- to 3-kilometer radius of the hives increase yields up to 30 percent.

This partnership will also upgrade a shea processing facility outside of Tamale, Ghana, that will significantly increase its capacity to produce hand-crafted shea butter and reduce its need for firewood, improving health and safety conditions for workers and mitigating environmental impact.

In West Africa, shea butter production is traditionally a women’s vocation. An estimated 600,000 women depend on the industry as their only cash income.

Burt’s Bees will select at least three women’s groups from within its shea supply chain to pilot this beekeeping project, providing equipment, training, and export market linkages.

Burt’s Bees’ suppliers will purchase and export all shea and beeswax sourced from these groups, giving farmers a reliable and sustainable buyer.

“The USAID Burt’s Bees SheKeeper activity will foster community and commercial partnerships with shea-producing women’s groups by introducing the multi-generational practice of beekeeping.

“Beekeeping opens opportunities for greater economic empowerment of women and youth and increased biodiversity for future generations,” says Shannon Hess, Burt’s Bees Director of Responsible Sourcing.

Through programming, USAID/Ghana and the Trade Hub expect to see the value of shea and beeswax exports, including to the United States, increase by at least US$1 million through 2024.

This is Trade Hub’s second investment in the apiculture sector following its support late last year to Koster Keunen, one of the world’s leading processors, refiners and marketers of natural waxes.

Koster Keunen, received a grant of almost US$2 million from the USAID-funded entity, to organize and improve West Africa’s beekeeping supply chain to meet international standards for honey and beeswax.

The financing was channelled towards availing equipment, training, and new technologies, and facilitate certifications for smallholders in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo.

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