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Shea stakeholders convenes to save ecosystem

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By Abraham Adekunle

Concerns about preserving the Shea ecosystem for sustainable development.

In an effort to safeguard the Shea ecosystem and promote environmental sustainability, stakeholders from the Shea sector convened in Abuja for the 2024 Annual Conference of the Global Shea Alliance, themed “Shea 2024.” Hosted by the National Shea Product Association of Nigeria (NASPAN), the conference served as a pivotal platform for participants to reaffirm their commitment to preserving the Shea tree and combating climate change, which poses significant threats to the sustainability of the Shea ecosystem.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), commended the progress made in protecting Shea trees, revealing that over 15,000 Shea trees have been planted across beneficiary countries to ensure sustainability. She emphasized the integral role of sustainable practices in the Shea trade, highlighting the significant economic contributions of Shea butter, often referred to as “women’s gold,” to millions of women in West Africa. With over 16 million women earning their livelihood from farming and processing Shea nuts, the industry generates an estimated $237 million in direct income for women, thereby empowering communities and driving economic growth.

Okonjo-Iweala forecasts Shea market growth and demand.

Moreover, Okonjo-Iweala underscored the growing market demand for Shea products, particularly in the cosmetics sector, which is valued at over $600 million. She projected that the cosmetics Shea market is expected to reach approximately $850 million by the end of 2027, indicating substantial growth opportunities for stakeholders across the Shea value chain. This exponential growth presents lucrative opportunities for value addition, job creation, and economic empowerment, especially for women in rural communities who are actively engaged in Shea production and processing.

Alhaji Shehu Chindo Yamusa, the Emir of Keffi Kingdom, raised awareness about the indispensable role of Shea trees in providing ecosystem services such as erosion control and groundwater recharge. He cautioned against the escalating threats to Shea trees, including deforestation and unsustainable land use practices, and emphasized the need for concerted efforts to protect and preserve these vital resources. Recognizing the interconnectedness of environmental conservation and sustainable development, Yamusa called for holistic approaches to address environmental challenges and promote ecosystem resilience.

Emphasis is placed on collaboration for sustainability.

Governor Mohammed Bago of Niger, represented by Mr. Aminu Takuma, Commissioner of Investment, reiterated the importance of collaboration among Shea value chain stakeholders to address challenges facing the Nigerian Shea industry. He regarded the conference as a pivotal platform to address sustainability issues and foster synergy among stakeholders. By fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange, stakeholders can leverage their collective expertise and resources to develop innovative solutions that promote sustainable Shea production and enhance environmental stewardship.

Also, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, commended the Global Shea Alliance for its impact on international commodity organizations and emphasized the imperative of bridging the gap between policies and implementation to ensure effective service delivery. Recognizing the critical role of the private sector in driving sustainable development, Uzoka-Anite underscored the need for public-private partnerships to mobilize resources, promote innovation, and scale up sustainable practices in the Shea sector. Mrs. Nonye Ayeni, Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), highlighted the significance of Shea as a key product for the council and emphasized its potential to empower women and drive economic transformation.

Related Article: GSA vows to address shea industry obstacles

With over 80% of individuals involved in Shea trade being women, Ayeni underscored the importance of mainstreaming gender considerations in Shea value chain development initiatives to promote women’s economic empowerment and social inclusion. As stakeholders unite to safeguard the Shea ecosystem and promote sustainability, their collective efforts hold the promise of unlocking the full potential of the Shea sector, fostering economic prosperity, and empowering communities across Nigeria and beyond. By embracing sustainable practices, promoting innovation, and fostering collaboration, stakeholders can create a brighter, more resilient future for the Shea industry and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria and beyond.

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