For thousands of years the women of Africa have known the secret to beautiful skin. The karite tree, known as ‘women’s gold’, grows throughout the savannah regions of West Africa. From its nuts comes shea butter, which they use by to protect and moisturise their skin. It actually encourages the skin to absorb moisture from the air so that the skin becomes softer and stays moisturised for longer.
The Akoma Cooperative
In 2006, in a small village called Pusu-Namogo in northern Ghana, a group of women got together to form the Akoma Cooperative Multipurpose Society. Unemployment was high in the area, with low literacy rates and poor access to health services. The cooperatives’ aim was to enable women to work to improve quality of life for themselves and their family by producing and selling shea butter.
Women joining the co-operative can now earn an income by collecting, processing and selling shea nuts and shea butter. They have access to a wide range of training schemes which include health and safety at work and disease control. The sale of shea butter is enabling the community to improve their schools and health clinic and respite care is now available for the elderly.
In 2009 their shea butter products received both Fairtrade certification (from the Fairtrade Foundation) and organic status (from the Soil Association) . There are now 74 women working in the co-operative, producing up to eight tonnes of shea butter a day.
The Akoma Cooperative Multipurpose Society is a wonderful testament to what women can achieve by working together.
Jessica Hynes visits Ghana
Award-winning star of Twenty Twelve and the Royle Family, Jessica Hynes, recently visited the Akoma Cooperative with her nine year old daughter Bee, to find out how shea butter is made and to learn about the benefits which come with Fairtrade for the group of women involved.
She explains: “I was moved by the way these women operated together as a team … Everyone needs to be given a fair price for what they grow. Here in Akoma they are producing a great quality product which is the basis for so many others we can buy at home. I want to let people know about this wonderful group of women and what they are doing to strengthen one of the poorest communities in the world.”
Now Jessica is hoping to raise awareness of the Akoma women and others like them this Fairtrade Fortnight by going bare-faced on International Women’s Day on 8th March, wearing nothing but the Akoma Shea Millions.
Juliana Sampana, the president of the co-operative, says life has been hard for many. “Women in this region have worked so hard to put food on their tables for their families through farming and odd jobs but end up with an unfair income which leads to poor diet and health problems such as beriberi and other diseases. But with Fairtrade certification the women are assured of receiving a fair wage for their hard work.”
Jessica added “The money they get from working together goes to build a strong, healthy community, for the good of the wider group not individual gain. These are values I really believe in and I’m very privileged to have witnessed them.
I now hope that I can help these incredible women touch more lives with their hard work and strength by showing people in the UK how wonderful the shea butter is and why they should be supporting such co-operatives too.”
Like of the Akoma Cooperative on Facebook
When the Fairtrade Foundation sent me a pot of Akoma Shea Million asking me to spread the word I was eager to help. I’ve just had a long soak in a bubble bath and with my skin still slightly damp, covered myself from head to toe in their Shea butter. I can honestly say my skin has never felt so good. I’m delighted!
Their Fairtrade Raw Organic Shea Butter naturally contains vitamin A and E. Vitamin A is important for improving a number of skins conditions including, blemishes, wrinkles, eczema and dermatitis. While vitamin E is a common anti-ageing ingredient that protects your skin. It is also perfect to take away with you when travelling or on holiday to take care of your skin after you have been out in the sun. I have high hopes I’ll be looking younger within the week!
Support the women of Akoma by buying Shea butter at Akoma Skin Care.
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