Selling shea nuts they gathered themselves is how many women in Mali and Burkina Faso earn a living. It's a precarious, season-dependent livelihood – but thanks to a public-private partnership (PPP), a Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV) programme sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more and more female entrepreneurs in these countries have additional sources of income.
In Mali and Burkina Faso, gathering and selling shea nuts is traditionally women's work. Women have organised themselves into cooperatives. Together, they supply their nuts to the French company OLVEA and others, who turn it into shea butter, a popular ingredient in cosmetics. OLVEA was looking for a way to increase the quality of the shea nuts and provide greater income security for the women. To achieve this, it launched 'She Sells Shea', a public-private partnership between a Dutch Ministry, the local government and a development organisation (ICCO), in 2014.
She Sells Shea also teaches the female entrepreneurs how to cultivate sesame plants and ben oil trees. OLVEA can process the seeds from these crops into edible oil. They have a different growing and harvesting season to the karité, the tree that grows shea nuts. This lets the entrepreneurs earn money all year round, increases their income and makes them less susceptible to financial setbacks or crop failures due to climate change. The female entrepreneurs are also given training to improve the quality of their crops, yielding a higher price. Partly due to She Sells Shea's efforts, the price of the commodity has already increased following the fair-trade and organic certification. Furthermore, the female entrepreneurs learn how they can use the three crops for consumption, allowing them to improve their own food security.
Thanks to the PPP, 31,000 women in Mali and Burkina Faso have seen their income rise. Half of all successful investments in She Sells Shea come from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV). The other half comes mainly from OLVEA, as well as from ICCO and smaller She Sells Shea partners.