For smallholder farmers in Ghana producing shea butter, bees are normally pests to swat away. But these insects will soon prove invaluable to farmers thanks to a $2 million, 3-year partnership between the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) mission in Ghana, the USAID/ West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), and Burt’s Bees®, an American company that sources shea butter and beeswax. Through the partnership’s project, titled “SheKeeper,” 1,200 Ghanaian women shea farmers will receive training in beekeeping, allowing them to diversify and substantially increase their incomes, potentially 10- to 20-fold.
According to Sharon Cromer, USAID/Ghana Mission Director, “This partnership with Burt’s Bees will increase private investment and demonstrate that shea collectors can profitably produce and sell beeswax, shea, and honey to meet growing demand for these commodities. Additional private investment by Burt’s Bees will create greater economic opportunities and a better quality of life for more of the 16 million women collecting and processing shea across 21 African countries.”
Burt’s Bees is leveraging its grant from USAID/Ghana through the Trade Hub to introduce beekeeping and create efficiencies by supporting honey, beeswax, and shea production. Crops like shea benefit from pollination from beehives. Shea plants within a 2- to 3-kilometer radius of the hives increase yields up to 30 percent. This partnership will also upgrade a shea processing facility outside of Tamale, Ghana, that will significantly increase its capacity to produce hand-crafted shea butter and reduce its need for firewood, improving health and safety conditions for workers and mitigating environmental impact.
In West Africa, shea butter production is traditionally a women’s vocation. An estimated 600,000 women depend on the industry as their only cash income. Burt’s Bees will select at least three women’s groups from within its shea supply chain to pilot this beekeeping project, providing equipment, training, and export market linkages. Burt’s Bees’ suppliers will purchase and export all shea and beeswax sourced from these groups, giving farmers a reliable and sustainable buyer.
“The USAID Burt’s Bees SheKeeper activity will foster community and commercial partnerships with shea-producing women’s groups by introducing the multi-generational practice of beekeeping,” says Shannon Hess, Burt’s Bees Director of Responsible Sourcing. “Beekeeping opens opportunities for greater economic empowerment of women and youth and increased biodiversity for future generations.”
Through programming, USAID/Ghana and the Trade Hub expect to see the value of shea and beeswax exports, including to the United States, increase by at least $1 million through 2024.
Burt’s Bees receipt photo caption 1: A Burt’s Bees-affiliated shea producer in northern Ghana with receipt in hand after selling her shea kernels. Photo credit: Burt’s Bees
Burts Bees inspection photo caption 2. Burt’s Bees “SheKeepers” in northern Ghana inspecting their new beehives. Photo credit Marc Amessi
Burt’s Bees beehive photo caption 3: A “SheKeeper” receives help from a child in her community in northern Ghana after receiving hives to start beekeeping. Photo credit: Marc Amessi
Burt’s Bees shea inspection photo caption 5: A secretary of a women’s group affiliated with the Burt’s Bees/USAID SheKeeper project in northern Ghana evaluates hand-crafted shea butter. Photo credit: Burt’s Bees