The evolution of shea butter's "Paradox of paradoxa" and the potential opportunity for information and communication technology (ICT) to improve quality, market access and women's livelihoods across Rural Africa

Julia Bello-Bravo, Peter N. Lovett, Barry R. Pittendrigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Shea trees grow across 4 million km2 of sub-Saharan Africa. Shea parklands provide a sustainable source of edible fat (shea butter) that, in terms of volume, is currently second only to cocoa butter as a vegetal source of stearic acid in the multi-billion dollar chocolate and cosmetic sectors. However, in terms of international trade, shea has been opaque to consumers of edible products (where the majority of shea exports end their global journey) and actually only well-known in western markets as a cosmetic ingredient. The millions of women collectors have been disconnected from global supply chains, as the majority of their sheanuts are factory processed, supplied by traders who, in many cases, do not understand quality issues nor share knowledge with their village-based collectors-this is the "Paradox of paradoxa". This review provides the background to this issue by contextualizing the industry and describing how weak post-harvest quality control impacts the shea supply chain. The paper then explains how this knowledge was incorporated into a 3D animation available for free transmission to rural African audiences and viewing on portable devices like video capable mobile phones. This tool offers the potential of low-cost multiple benefits to users, which we term here a win-cubed [win3] opportunity, where women collectors can receive free knowledge of using less resources to produce higher quality shea kernels which in turn offer higher extraction yields, lowering production costs, of a better and more marketable product.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5752-5772
Number of pages21
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • African women
  • Chocolates
  • Cosmetics
  • ICT knowledge transfer
  • Post-harvest quality
  • Shea butter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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