Tuesday, 24 October 2017

History of Pagsung : How the Shea Tree Evolved into Making a Thousand Lives Better

Salamatu Nanna Adam making "Black soap" with some of the Pagsung women

The Shea tree is an indigenous perennial crop that grows in the semi-arid savanna regions of West Africa.  It grows naturally in the wild forest and can also be cultivated.  It has a life span of 200-400 years. Which means it can serve 4 generations, hence the need to preserve it for posterity. Its kernels produce a vegetable fat called Shea butter which has amazing moisturizing, regenerative and medicinal properties. 

In pharmaceutical industries, shea butter can be used for curing rashes, skin peeling, scars, stretch marks, frost bite, burns, athlete’s foot, insect bites and arthritis. It is also a key ingredient in making some cosmetics such as soaps, shampoos, anti-aging creams, body and hair creams, massage oils to mention but a few.

Raw shea butter and shea nut

A Pagsung women kneading the shea nut paste
The Pagsung Shea Nut Pickers and Shea butter Processors Association is a network of Shea nut pickers and Shea butter Processors founded in October 2008. It has a  membership of about 1500 women Shea nut pickers and Shea butter processors across 40 communities in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern  Regions of Ghana. 

Pagsung is pronounced “pah – sun”, a dagbani word which, translated into English, means “good woman”. Unique among other Shea Butter producers is that, Pagsung is owned and managed by the Shea nut pickers and Shea butter producers themselves.

It is Pagsung’s objective to reduce poverty in the northern regions of Ghana by empowering the women involved to have a sustainable source of livelihood.  Apart from Shea butter production, they engage in other activities such as Rice processing, Shea Oil Extraction, and Neem Oil Extraction, Shea soap production, Corn flour production and “dawadawa” extraction. (A local ingredient made from the African Locus Bean Tree)

The northern part of the country is the poorest in terms of developmental and economic enhancements as there are not enough social intervention policies aimed at empowering people, especially the women who are usually farmers or petty traders. 

In line with achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5, Pagsung is empowering women to reduce gender inequality by providing a source of livelihood to the local Ghanaian women.  The West African nation of Ghana is still taking steps, though small but significant towards closing the inequality gap in the country. 

Successes have been recorded by previous and current administrations to ensure that women and young girls in the country are empowered but also ensuring that provisions are made to ensure the right resources are provided for this to happen. It is therefore important that small businesses like Pagsung are not only supported but given the opportunity, space and resources to grow. This is going to reduce poverty in rural areas, to induce inclusive economic growth, and to ensure the economic prosperity all women.

A Map of Ghana with emphasis on the three Northern Regions

Pagsung’s vision is to empower women of the Northern, Upper East and Upper west Regions which are the most disadvantaged regions in the country.  Members are equipped with modern solutions that will enable them to overcome poverty and live with dignity.
  Pagsung’s Mission is to
  • 1.     To assure the autonomy of members and increase their self-promotion through the value-addition on local goods, particularly Shea butter and Shea related products.
  • 2.     Improve upon the activities of members through the provision of financial services and entrepreneurial skills that aims at increasing their income levels.
  • 3.     Focus on socio-cultural and self-improvement activities such as literacy training, health education as well as gender equality, peace building and leadership programs.
  • 4.     Explore new markets for Shea butter and Shea nut sale promotion. Transmit Shea butter production skills and techniques among local women processors and create links with other women groups for experience sharing.

As the second cohort of Pagsung ICS, we deem it a great avenue and opportunity to work in partnership with these women to aid in developing useful skills through training, introducing new markets for the products made and providing avenues to ensure they understand and exercise their rights. By doing this, in the long term, we hope to see a decrease in the prevalence of gender inequality and vulnerability to conditions such as malnutrition, inability to educate offspring and access to good health care. Indeed the Shea tree is offering the indigenous Ghanaian woman an escape and liberation from poverty.

Written by Salamatu Nanna Adam

Photo credit:
https://goo.gl/images/3e74Rf, https://goo.gl/images/rLTbY9

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