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Why shea butter production in Niger suffers

Trees felled for charcoal, timber, firewood Lack of a workable policy has been identified as the major issue frustrating shea butter processing and production among…

  • Trees felled for charcoal, timber, firewood

Lack of a workable policy has been identified as the major issue frustrating shea butter processing and production among rural women in Niger State.

A Daily Trust investigation revealed that hundreds of shea trees are being cut on a daily basis for charcoal, timber and firewood in the state without afforestation which, experts said, is capable of pushing rural women out of the business if nothing is done to checkmate the act.

Daily Trust also found that the product, mostly produced manually by women in most local government areas of Katcha, Agaie, Lavun, Gbako among others, did not meet the global standard for exportation.

It also found that agencies such as the Raw Material Research Institute and Export Promotion Council are not doing enough to add value to the locally produced butter to meet global taste.

Hauwa Ibrahim, a processor in Katcha LGA, told Daily Trust that they still used manual methods, especially the use of pestle and mortar to crush and grind the shea nuts, adding that “it is energy sapping and time-consuming.”

“We have a lot of challenges. We don’t have our own grinding machine; we have to trek many kilometres to grind the shea nut, and we go most of the time on foot.

“Sometimes, we make the trip three times. Most of the time, if we come back, we are tired. So, we process it the following day.

“The manual processing is very tedious. If we have processing machines, we will do more because each day, we process 15 measures manually.”

She said the shea butter processing business had improved their livelihoods, adding that “if we buy a 100kg bag of shea nuts at N15,000 and process it, we normally get N3,000 profit when we sell the shea butter.”

Mrs Ibrahim said the buyers came from Abuja, Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria, but that the market was not regular.

Engr. Mohammed Abdulkadir, who is the officer in charge of the Shea Tree Research Substation of the Nigerian Institute for Oil-Palm Research (NIFOR), Bida, Niger State, said the agency had raised more than two million seedlings of shea trees and supplied them to individuals and corporate organisations.

“NIFOR has developed good planting materials for grafted seedlings and improved the direct sowing seeds that have considerably reduced the gestation period to 5-7 years as against 20 years of the wild.

“It’s domesticated now with proper agronomic management. You can get between 50-70 kg of shea nuts per tree.”

He said NIFOR was collaborating with other organisations, including NASPAN, NSMA, NSCEC, Federal University of Technology, Minna, and IBB University on research to improve the shea sector in the state.

He said one of the major challenges facing the shea business in the state is the indiscriminate felling of shea trees for charcoal.

“NIFOR has been actively involved in the campaign against shea tree felling for charcoal, firewood and timber, which is significantly affecting the ecosystem and destroying the natural income of the rural dwellers, particularly the women processors,” he stated.

He said they were also in collaboration with NASPAN to improve the uniformity of the shea nut processing techniques to meet international standards and to increase the earnings of the rural dwellers, particularly women processors.

“NIFOR, in collaboration with NSCEC, is working on the Niger State shea policy framework for the next 10 years,” he also said.

Abubakar Akote