The Where Life Grows shea sustainability program is committed to preserving and protecting the shea landscape, empowering shea collecting women, and creating socio-economic value in their communities. As part of this vision, Bunge Loders Croklaan is now a partner in a long-term, public-private project in Ghana that embraces all these goals: the Ghana Shea Landscape Emissions Reduction Project (GSLERP).
This project aims, over seven years, to reduce emissions, restore shea landscape, and adapt to climate in Ghana’s Northern Savannah region while promoting investment in the shea value chain. The project is part of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which works in 170 countries to eradicate poverty while protecting the planet. GSLERP is funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which supports developing countries achieve climate change targets.
By restoring 1.75 million shea trees, reducing deforestation and enhancing fire management across 500,000 hectares, GSLERP will help retain soil moisture, reduce water loss (evapotranspiration of water) and maintain soil fertility. At the same time, the project will enable women shea collectors to utilize land resources sustainably, maximize the value of shea nuts and help build a resilient local economy. As a result, GSLERP will directly strengthen the livelihoods and climate resilience of over 100,000 people in the region.
The Ghana Forestry Commission (part of the Government of Ghana) will lead the implementation of GSLERP in partnership with the Global Shea Alliance and multiple public and private institutionsBunge Loders Croklaan and Eco Restore, a local social enterprise that promotes regenerative parkland management, are implementing partners for the delivery of two key outputs of the project:
1. Restore and sustainably manage the shea parklands
2. Strengthen the shea processing value chains
Eco Restore is leading the first objective: restoring and preserving the shea parkland, and receives GCF funding via GSA for this purpose. As well as planting shea trees to replace those lost to human activity like farming and urbanization, Eco Restore will also plant non-shea trees to promote biodiversity which in turn helps maintain ecosystems and improve soil quality. These non-shea species will also include fast-growing trees for use as firewood.
“Since 2020 Eco Restore has annually provided multi-thousand tree growing packages to BLC-linked communities. So, it is really exciting to be scaling-up this service to now establish hundreds of thousands of trees across a north Ghanaian shea landscape. By offering farmers a diverse selection of over 25 multi-purpose indigenous tree species, we keep all community members engaged in tree growing back. For example, women are keen on nutritious tree ingredients, such as baobab leaves or protein-rich dawadawa beans, whilst the men prefer timber species like mahogany or rosewood.” - Peter Lovett, Executive Director, Eco Restore
Bunge Loders Croklaan is leading the second objective: strengthening shea processing value chains. It's working closely with Agriterra, a Dutch organization that provides expert advice and training to cooperatives and farmer organizations in emerging economies. For the women of shea, they organize trainings to form cooperatives which helps them generate all-year-round incomes, gives access to finance and negotiating power. This approach has already resulted in our company sourcing from the communities that were founded by the women.
In addition to developing and empowering women cooperatives through training and other resources, Bunge Loders Croklaan supplies shea rollers which prove to triple the yield, and energy-efficient cookstoves that use 60% less wood than conventional methods. Next to these large stoves that are meant for shea processing, the women also participate in a training to build energy efficient household cookstoves. This type of training is designed to encourage the women to pass the information forward to others via the ‘train the trainer’-concept. As a result, the company's contribution will not only have a positive impact on the local economy, it will also support GSLERP's carbon emission reduction goals and Bunge’s Global No Deforestation commitment. "As a company that sources shea from Ghana, we have a responsibility to ensure that the shea trees are still growing in 20 years," says Laura de Gruijter, Sustainability Manager, Bunge Loders Croklaan. "With our participation in GSLERP, we're not investing in just one aspect of shea preservation, we're taking a holistic approach that covers all three of our Where Life Grows pillars in order to generate long-term prosperity in the region."
When GSLERP is completed in seven years, northern Ghana will have a thriving shea parkland, sustainable nurseries to ensure the parkland's long-term preservation and highly capable, independent women cooperatives contributing to a healthy local economy for generations to come.