Thursday, 26 October 2017


First of all, what is Shea butter I hear you ask?

Shea butter is the fat that is extracted from the Shea nut, a substance rich in oils that nurture and soften skin and hair, a commodity that dates back to Cleopatra and the ancient Egyptians. Shea butter is the product of the Shea nut, which grows on the Shea/Karite tree. This fruit is not picked but is left to mature and collected when it eventually drops to the ground. 

It is an incredibly intense, physically demanding job, especially in rural communities in which there is no modern machinery or resources to speed up the process. Furthermore, this is an industry dominated by women and it is through their physical labour that Shea butter can be produced. Because Shea butter is predominantly a female run industry it has the opportunity to empower the women that produce it. This is because these women can earn a wage and not be dependent upon their husbands for income empowering them and emancipating them from the home.  

Our project Pagsung, consists of both Pagsung Shea nut pickers and Shea butter processors. It is a cooperative made up of 40 groups consisting of 1500 members spread across the three Northern Regions of Ghana that is the Upper East Region and the Upper West Region. Over the past few weeks we have spent time with the women at Pagsung, and have achieved an understanding of how the shea butter here is made. Of course none of this would be possible without the help of the shea butter makers themselves. The brilliant women of Pagsung!

So here they are, the 10 steps of the Shea butter making process provided by the women of Pagsung!

Step by step guide:

1. Firstly, the Shea nut is collected from the ground beneath the Shea tree and the outer skin is removed. This process takes place when it is in season from May to July.

2. The Nuts are brought back to the processing compound and then they are boiled (dependent on strength of fire) for 40 minutes- 5 hours. This is to make the shell easier to break so the seed inside can be retrieved.

3. The Shea nuts are dried under the African sun.

4. The Shea nuts are pounded, either by large pestle and mortar or by machine, and then the seed is separated from the shell by hand.

5. The seeds are ground by machine.

6. The ground Shea seeds are roasted over the fire for anywhere up to an hour.

7. The Mixture is then milled by machine.

8. The milled Shea has water added to it and is kneaded to make a paste.

9. After an hour of churning the oil separates from brown residue and is collected. This is placed in a hot pan and boiled under a low heat to remove impurities.


10. After the liquid Shea butter is sifted and all impurities are removed, it is placed into big basins and left to cool for a minimum of half a day.

After all of this it is finally packaged and sent off to be processed into soaps, body and hair pomades and even foods, all of which you can find in our Pagsung shop.

Written by
Nathaniel Ryan Dilling & Abdullai Rahima

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