Caravan to Protect Shea Trees and Women's Livelihoods
The shea park in Benin is undergoing massive destruction. Civic Engagement Aliance campaigns to push the government to protect the sector and rural women's source of income and nutrition.
Numerous studies and testimonies indicate that the shea park in Benin is undergoing massive destruction. It is often mentioned that this regression could have reached 40 to 50% between 2005 and 2017 . However, the existing shea tree grows in the wild and takes between 15 and 20 years to become mature and nuts productive. Shea that grows in the Sahelian zone of the country is plagued by the ravages of climate change.
The processing of shea nuts occupies more than 500,000 people, out of which 95% are women, who derive from it most of their annual income. In addition, shea is the third most important agricultural export product for the country, just behind cotton and cashew nuts. Finally, It is estimated that 20% of the total annual production (100,000 tons) enters the food of the population like vegetable oil.
Low value perception
Local sociology continues to associate the shea tree with its potential for the preparation of pounded yam. For the collective consciousness it is a product of nature, so with little value. The economic value of its fruit, ( the shea nuts), and all its potential for fighting against women's poverty, seem also not perceived by the authorities in charge of the protection of the forest resources.
Campaign for protection
This situation provides solid ground for a common lobby and advocacy agenda at local and national levels, aiming toward pushing the government to better taking into account the shea sector with specific legislation and action to save rural women source of income and nutrition (forestry legislation enforcement at local level and amendment of the law).
Besides enabling national policies and programs, there is a need for effective and inclusive local governance and leadership towards sustainable shea park management/protection. For, local authorities and traditional leaders have to be sensitized and called to action. Shea producers’ organization AKB and it members, with CEA technical and financial assistance, engage caravan activities through all shea production regions with participation of media ( Benin TV reports this activity as shown in this video).
Giving voice to victims
In december 2018, 200 women collectors and processors walked in the city of Djougou (North West Benin) to remind the Prefect of the province, the importance of shea for their income and their duty to ensure the protection of the shea tree . As a result, the authority decided to work together with AKB to create a platform extended to all mayors of districts for exchanges and dialogue, with the aim of exploring together the actions that depend on its authority and that of the mayors of the districts.
This action has contributed to a change in attitude of the decision makers. At least, this constitutes a chance to the CEA program activities to produce better results. CEA Benin, took this opportunity to enter into the process of facilitating the establishment of advocacy and dialogue within the rest of provinces where shea is local product.