Sustainable manufacturing processes of our cooperatives

THE SHEABUTTER COOPERATIVE IN GHANA

Shea butter is obtained from the fruits of the shea tree. The shea tree reaches a height of 10-15m, is a natural part of the vegetation of the Sub-Sahel zone (a 300km wide strip of vegetation from Mali to Burkina Faso, Ghana and as far as Benin) and is considered sacred by the population.

A shea tree blossoms for the first time at the age of about 20 years, at 30 years it reaches its full fruit production.

The fruits of the shea tree are harvested between April and June, the green outer flesh can be eaten directly - leaving behind the shea nut. The pre-selected shea nuts are crushed and put into a roasting drum where they are roasted and ground: now the "shea butter" almost looks like liquid chocolate.

Stirring vigorously by hand alternates with cold water additions, thereby dissolving fat from the paste and changing its color. After hot water, cold water is added again and stirred by hand - this results in a grey, greasy foam which is skimmed off.

The foam is placed in a trough and heated over a fire. By heating it, the oil dehydrates completely and lightens it, then the warm liquid fat is poured into a clean bowl to solidify. While solidifying, the shea butter is stirred with wooden spoons.

THE PRODUCERS

The members of the women's groups live in the Upper West Region in Ghana on the border to Burkina Faso - without much infrastructure, long without employers. Here it is therefore even more important to offer the people perspectives.

By working for the project, the women are given an opportunity to earn an income with an activity that is rooted in their tradition. Through advice, they learn to invest money wisely and thus secure the future of production.

Also the outer packaging of the 1kg and 2kg units of handmade shea butter are handmade by women of the LOBI tribe. The packaging of the remaining units and the labels are produced in Accra in the south of Ghana.

Even the logo of the shea butter was designed in Accra.

THE ARGAN OIL COOPERATIVE IN MOROCCO

The Argan oil is extracted from the nuts of the Argan tree. The argan tree is the basis of life for the Berbers in Morocco. Normally the Argan tree grows up to 200 years old and up to 10 meters high.

It is also called the "tree of life" because it provides the Berber tribes on the edge of the Sahara with firewood, food, medicine and shade for agriculture and livestock breeding. It is also a vital protection against the advancing desert.

The endangered tree grows only in a relatively small area in southwest Morocco, a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The approximately date-sized fruit of the argan tree is not edible without further processing. However, the fruit contains a nut which is three times thicker than our hazelnuts and whose shell is extremely hard. In this nut there is a kind of "almond" which is smaller than a sunflower seed. These "almonds" are dried on the flat roofs of the mud houses and then roasted.

They are then ground by hand and mixed with water to form a paste from which the oil is finally extracted. Per Argan tree one harvests every two years about 30kg of fruits, which are then processed by hand and in the end result in about 1 litre of Argan oil. Not only the ingredients make Argan oil so extremely valuable, also the limitedness of the resource and the very complex processing are not comparable with oils known to us.

THE PRODUCERS

Currently the network comprises 6 women's cooperatives with a total of around 240 members. In addition to the production of argan oil, subsistence agriculture, beekeeping and the collection of medicinal herbs serve as the basis of life.

The members of the cooperatives are simple women, mostly members of the Amazigh Berbers. They live in several village communities around Agadir and in the neighbouring provinces. Many of them are illiterate and traditionally required to take care of the household.

Membership in the cooperatives enabled them to earn their own income for the first time, to educate themselves and thus to emancipate themselves. Through their work, the women receive access to training in the areas of quality assurance, harvesting methods, marketing and other technical matters, but also general education.

The women are responsible for harvesting the fruit and processing it into oil. The fruits are harvested on their own and foreign land. In the latter case, part of the harvest must be delivered to the owner.