On a hot dry Saturday in June, we visited one of TREE AID’s local partner’s SEMUS. They’ve been working in Yako region in Burkina Faso for over 10 years. We currently work together on local forest governance. We help communities to take control of their natural resources and work together with the local council to set forest boundaries, and rules, for how the forest land can be used sustainably.
Women’s shea enterprise group
TREE AID’s projects focus on women. Women rely on forests for jobs and wild food to supplement what they can grow. We travelled to Bissiga village to meet a group of women who have taken control of 5 hectares of forest land – and they are cleaning up!
Suzanne Seogo, the chair of the group took pride in showing the soap the group has been making.
But what has soap got to do with forestry?
Suzanne and her group of women entrepreneurs have been collecting shea nuts from the forest for years and making shea butter. They’ve been selling the shea butter in local markets as a moisturiser. It’s backbreaking work for little return.
But Suzanne’s innovative group identified a gap in the market for soap. They asked the project to help them purchase some basic equipment and chemicals. Now they are making soap with their shea butter as the key ingredient.
They only started production in January 2016 and have depended on word of mouth to find buyers; “We started by selling in the surrounding villages, then we got an order from Yako town. Now someone in the capital, Ouagadougou wants to buy our soap” says Suzanne.
So far this year the group have made 1500 bars of SOMBO soap selling at 300 CFA (£0.36) each which is a lot more than they’d make selling shea butter in the village.
It is important to Suzanne and the group to look after the shea trees in order to maintain a supply of shea butter for the business. Other welcome outcomes are that the forest becomes increasingly important to the community, is better protected and can begin to regenerate.
I am constantly inspired by the resourcefulness, ingenuity and sheer hard work of the women we work within Burkina Faso. It is a privilege to support their development and help them protect the natural resources that they and their families rely on.