Shea value chain project wins IUCN Impact award

The Shea tree is regarded as the most beneficial tree in the landscape of Northern Uganda. However, despite it being the most dominant tree species, it is mostly cut for charcoal production.

To reverse this situation, IUCN, through the Building Drought Resilience (BDR) has supported communities to process Shea oil at a commercial scale, through mobilising them into groups, training and linking them to markets. Now farmers are keen to spare the Shea tree and the project has won the 2018 IUCN Impact Award under “Best Programme” category

Betty from Uganda

The Shea tree, an indigenous fruit tree prevalent in dry land areas of sub-Saharan Africa is regarded as the most beneficial tree in the landscape of Northern Uganda. However, despite it being the most dominant tree species, it is mostly cut for charcoal production to meet the demands of urban centres and towns in Uganda where over 90% of households rely on charcoal for fuel.

To reverse this situation, IUCN, through the Building Drought Resilience (BDR) has supported communities to process Shea oil at a commercial scale, through mobilising them into groups, training and linking them to markets. Now farmers are keen to spare the Shea tree and the project has won the 2018 IUCN Impact Award under “Best Programme” category

The project which was implemented in both Kenya and Uganda with funding from the AUSTRIAN Development Agency (ADA) has led to higher economic benefits compared to cutting the trees for charcoal. 

Sophie Kutegeka, the IUCN Country representative in Uganda says: “We helped the communities to realise that the livelihood benefits from the Shea tree are more sustainable when the tree is conserved, than cutting it down for quick returns such as sale of timber and charcoal.”

According to Sophie, the innovation resulted in the conservation and sustainable management of the Shea tree and its regeneration within the landscape. So far, total of 400 households have organised themselves into a cooperative association with direct benefits from this initiative. In addition, over 6,000 community members who supply Shea nuts to the two processing plants within the communities are also benefitting from this enterprise. Women are the main drivers of this initiative representing 80.7% of the membership of the groups since Shea oil processing is traditionally an activity done by women.

Achen Betty from Arwontngo parish in Northern Uganda acknowledges the great potential shea has in transforming the community income. She says: “At the household level, communities in Alolololo and Arwotngo parishes have increased their shea oil production from 5 to 50 litres per day with the introduction of the motorised Shea processing units. Additionally, the improvement of the quality of the shea oil produced has enabled the product to acquire a trading certificate and penetrate national markets, hence fetching a higher market price from UGX 7,000 ($1.85) to UGX 18,000 ($4.75) per litre which is providing significant income in our communities!”

“When working with communities, it is important to recognise and promote the incentive based approaches which consider the pressing livelihood needs which lead to degradation of the key resources,” says Sophie.

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