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As the final rains fall in Southern Ghana, the temperatures in Bamboi have already begun to skyrocket with the onset of the dry season. Soon the temperature will be accompanied by the strong warm winds blowing dust and diseases south from the Sahara Desert—a phenomenon known as Harmattan.
Harmattan is also unfortunately known as the ‘hunger season’ in Bamboi and much of Northern Ghana, where there is only one major rainy season each year. By the time it comes around many families are reaching the end of their staple reserve food items, and many people die of hunger. BamCashea is trying to change this trend, by supporting industries that allow people to benefit from the literal fruits of their labor – for longer.
For the 50 women of the Nortoma Shea Cooperative, we are close to having a fully functional, safe, and sustainable facility for processing shea butter and beauty products year-round. One of the keys to sustainable and safe –cookstoves! BamCashea has partnered with the Burn Design Lab and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to construct an institutional size, dual-burner, fuel-efficient cookstove (better than a HEMI) that will not only reduce the smoke inhaled by women during cooking that lead to major health problems, but will also save trees by reducing the amount of fuel wood needed for each batch of shea butter!
The stove is set to be constructed in February 2021 thanks to a large anonymous donation. Our primary goal now will be to ensure the cooperative has the capital to purchase shea nuts and seedlings for the next harvest and growing season, which we would greatly appreciate your help in doing. We are looking for donations and connections to ensure production and consumption of large quantities of quality shea butter, so please be in touch with your funds or thoughts!
And by outfitting the center, local men find employment as well! These men below are making bricks to complete the mill structure.
For dozens of cashew farmers and their families in Bamboi, we are also making progress in processing cashew apples as an additional source of local income and employment – year round. There are currently four hundred plus acres of cashew in Bamboi, not including surrounding villages. While large income once per year is attractive, the conversion of these nearby peripheral lands from subsistence farming may be the biggest cost –after clearing, planting, weeding, and soil amendment. While it would be difficult to convince many farmers to cut their trees for the sake of community food security (classic tragedy of the commons), it is much easier to intensify current production and increase profits by utilizing wasted apples (post-harvest loss). If you haven’t read about cashew apples – check out our previous posts for more info!
When farmers need labor - especially for harvest – they elect to pay lower wages to women for the work. By creating a secondary product from a simultaneous harvest, the women can be paid more for their labor, and more families in Bamboi will benefit from cashew farm harvests year-round from the same acreage of cashew. Intensification of existing cashew could also discourage expansion of cashew farms and therefore displacement of more subsistence farmlands, which is a secondary hope of our efforts.
The good news is – we will have a still in place by January 2021! Thanks to a previous grant from the Portland Peace Corps Association, and board member fundraising efforts this fall we are hoping to have some cashew spirits to share in late 2021, so stay tuned!
BamCashea continues to support community owned businesses in Bamboi striving to elevate the value of their –sustainably used—natural resources. We have only started to apply the logic of value to ecosystem services in the United States--where a tree may actually be worth more alive than it is dead—but in many places like Ghana, the height of their industrial expansion has yet to be reached. BamCashea wants to ensure that sustainable technologies and creative solutions are the catalyst for economic development-- not the afterthought. Your time and financial support can help make this a reality, one community at a time. Thank you for reading about our progress and efforts, and hope you consider joining in our future success.
As current events seem to break down our sense of ‘normalcy’ around the world, there has never been a better time to build each other up for a brighter future.
BamCashea is engaging with more partners with similar goals of empowering women by improving the profits, and processes, around the production of shea butter in Ghana. In the past few months we have reached out to small and large businesses to curate a market for a portion the Norntoma Cooperative’s ethically and sustainably produced shea butter, which will provide capital and stability to their operations while growing their local and national value-added product market.
Pure shea butter samples hit the streets of the Pacific Northwest
A nut saved today is worth three tomorrow: Proper storage and collective action allow the women of Bamboi to invest in their future
The storage room of the Norntoma Women’s Cooperative is filling up with 85kg jute sacks of dried shea nuts harvested this season from the tall, grassy Ghanaian savannah, just as the motor of the grinding mill kicks into action at the cooperative center for the first time. The women, who up until last year, ground the shea by hand will now use the grinding mill to reduce time, labor and losses in the processing of the shea butter; While the grinding mill may seem like the biggest success of the season, what is really impressive is the women’s new found ability to save nuts.