I am definitely infected with the Shea virus. Since I have been studying this raw material closely I have been fascinated by its effects, production and history. Admittedly, I have been fascinated by natural raw materials since my studies as a farmer’s wife in a monastery, since when I have been making my own cosmetics with herbs, oils and waxes. And now a butter! It is about time to find out more and to go on the trace of shea butter in Ghana. Come along!
First stop: Firestation – First meeting
So we are standing in front of THE fire station, somewhere in the middle of Accra, Ghana. It is morning, but the hot West African sun is already showing its fullness. By phone we were guided to this fire station. After several calls we reached the fire station, but now nobody picks up the phone anymore. If one looks for a certain place in the capital of Ghana, one cannot follow the street names, because these are often missing. Instead, it takes several phone calls and mysterious geographical explanations.
Without success we search the streets. Far and wide our destination is not in sight. But our phone rings again. We are supposed to go to the «Trade Fair». Again we wave a taxi and negotiate the overpriced price. When we arrive at the «Trade Fair», another call: «Just go to the firestation.» Seriously, isn’t that where we just came from?
After a long time of wandering around we have actually reached the goal. A small house with a shea shop is in front of us. And behind the house, look at, actually another fire station. Of course another one than we had located before.
The Shea-Shop is a small production and sales place of handmade shea butter products. The team of the manufactory is committed to ethical working conditions for the producers in the north of the country. Friendly and shy the daughter of the owner shows us the different products. The pure natural shea butter is great. Other products are naturally scented. But when testing the products my nose has a different opinion. To my question whether the scents are really of natural origin, I get a positive answer several times. But the case is clear for me: unfortunately no! A cooperation is out of the question.
Global Mamas – Second meeting
Soaked by the tropical heat we continue along the streets of Accra. Our next stop: Global Mamas Shop in Osu. We are lucky, we meet the owner of the shop and the fair trade organisation of the same name. Also in the Global Mamas Shop there is a nice assortment of shea butter products. The owner Renae has more than ten years of experience in trading shea butter. She shows me the challenges, tells me about her personal experiences with different cooperatives and partners and confirms answers to my questions. The conversation with Renae has proved to be very helpful and my knowledge of the shea business has been expanded again.
Chop Bar Breaktime
The clock hand is already at 2 pm, time for the Chop Bar. One Jollof Rice with chicken and one Fufu with beef is on the menu. In the large roofed room a pleasant wind blows. The food tastes excellent and the break is really good.
Continue to the fitness center – Third meeting
Strengthened, we move on to our next meeting. This will take place in an air-conditioned fitness center. We are warmly welcomed by the founder of the manufactory and her mother. The natural cosmetics production was launched in 2014. All this with natural raw materials from the north of Ghana. A real beauty safari for the skin and at the same time for the nose. Every single product is based on a story of old Ghanaian traditions. Old tried and tested products often prove themselves new today. The owner tells us a lot about the far north, about the women in the cooperatives, the shea butter production, the ant hills, the beehives and the baobabs. It also shows the cultural differences from the South to the North. Even for her as a local, they are two very different worlds and without a local person of trust, nothing would work. We are enthusiastic about her passion for her products, her sense of aesthetics and her quality standards. Currently, she is undergoing tests with her products by the Ghanaian Food Authority. We spend a few hours in the cool fitness centre and return the following day for an exchange.
Many more talks and visits in Accra and outside the capital followed. And I am looking forward to participating in the annual Shea Conference Africa in the future. Yes, the Shea journey continues…