SHEA FROM KOMBISSIRI
Terre d’Oc’s shea comes from Burkina Faso, a country bordered by Niger, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin and Togo. This is a very rural country (85 % of the inhabitants live in the country) and the population is made up of about sixty ethnic groups which give it a real cultural wealth. Each ethnic group has its own history, beliefs, dances, language, architecture and traditions. Essentially rainfed agriculture is the main source of income and is therefore dependent on the uncertain character of the climate (among the natural disasters, droughts are the most frequent in Burkina Faso and on the other hand there is flooding too).
The main crops are sorghum, millet, rice, corn, groundnut, cassava, yam, sesame, cashew nuts, mango and cotton. Even though he shea tree is still wild, it has been Burkina’s 4th export product for the last 5 years.
Everyone knows what shea butter is, and everyone has heard of the women’s gold of Sahelian Africa. This majestic and precious tree gives a repairing, healing and nourishing butter which has been used since time immemorial in Western Africa for food, lighting or skin care…
It belongs to what are known as "useful" species which have been traditionally maintained by the farmers on the cultivated or fallow land. Preserving shea trees in the fields and the access to the fruit are of great importance to the women who have harvesting, kernel processing and butter making rights (even if more and more men are claiming to own the trees in the family fields!).
The shea butter trade is a very old one (shea butter was once exchanged for salt from the trans-Saharan caravans). Unfortunately 95 % of the shea kernels are not made into butter, and are imported by agrifood multinationals who have no problem imposing their prices and conditions (shea is a substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate).
Meeting the KOMBISSIRI group
Located in the Central-Southern region, 40 km to the south of Ouagadougou, Kombissiri has a population of around 17 000, most of them from the Mossi ethnic group whose language is mooré. The name Kombissiri is said to come from the merging of two words, "Kom" and Bissiri" or "land of earth and sand". The first habitants to settle there were two chieftains, the first of a line of landowners of whom one of the current descendants is still the land chief of Kombissiri, and the second, the son of Ouédraogo, who was the founder of the Mossi chieftainship. Capital of the province of Bazéga, the locality has great vegetable growing potential. The young grow potatoes, onions, tomatoes and eggplants.
The APES/Femmes de Kombissiri association launched into the production of certified Organic and FFL (Fair For Life) butter in 2013 on terre d’Oc’s initiative.
To do this, three other villages have associated with the shea processing group based in Kombissiri for the harvesting and processing of the shea nuts and kernels.
The trade contract was signed in November 2013 : terre d’Oc is committed to a minimum quantity, a price above the market price, and to financing a development fund over the contract duration and giving technical assistance… terre d’Oc has financed the Organic and FFL certification every year since 2013.
APESF has committed to respecting the ORGANIC and FFL specifications, particularly where the quality of the product, delivery times and the transparency on the use of the development fund are concerned.
All in all, there are more than 170 women directly involved in this activity and around a thousand people directly or indirectly affected by it.
In the group, the butter making cycle lasts 3 days, from the washing of the nuts to the filtered finished butter. The butter is stored or a maximum of 1 month in a special room. The average production is 100 litres every 3 days.
Duly authorised by terre d’Oc, Amidou OUATTARA, a Burkinabe chemist and engineer with quality and environmental expertise, helps the women of the group to improve the butter extraction and manufacturing techniques. In addition to this, he trains the women in Organic farming, awareness of the FFL standard and the monitoring of the exporting of the Organic and FFL butter.
He came to terre d’Oc in May 2015 to perfect his knowledge of the production of cosmetics, learn about the ISO 14001 standard environmental management and reinforce his quality control knowledge. In the scope of Organic production, in each village there are internal inspectors in charge of seeing that the rules are respected for the perpetuation of the species. The women are instructed not to collect all the nuts under the trees and to protect the young shea plants in the fields.
Many women cannot read or write and are not schooled, but have a true know-how for making butter which has been handed down from generation to generation. Intense energy and a surprising courage enable them to develop their group, diversify their activities and send their children to school. Unfortunately, their extreme poverty does not always allow them to send their children to school because they have to pay for the uniform, enrolment, schoolbooks and transport, etc.
The women are on average from 20 to 55 years old, and besides their kernel processing and butter producing activities, they each spend the rest of their time between work in the fields with their hubands and the collection of building aggregates (sand, pebbles ans stones), extremely hard work which pays little. As soon as the shea work is over, fropm the end of February, the women have time for the literacy classes organised by the group.
In the APESF association, in addition to preparing shea butter, they dye fabric, keep bees and have a small soap production. At midday, the women have their meal together, the group supplies the ingredients and each women cooks in turn: fatty rice, rice with eggplant sauce, rice with peanut sauce, atiéké (cassava semolina), tô (a paste made from millet flour, sorghum and corn), cowpeas or beans, yam foutou with its white, elastic paste, the native fabirama potato with its black skin and purple flesh and traditional vegetables to accompany the cereals and roots: fresh and dried okra, cowpea leaves, sorrel leaves, fresh and dried baobab leaves, kapok tree leaves, etc...
MANUFACTURING THE BUTTER
Harvesting is done very early in the morning in order to avoid the intense heat of the day. Watch out for scorpions and snakes ! The nuts are transported in basins or baskets, are processed and the kernels obtained are packaged in 100 kg bags.
The butter is made following a craft method which relies on women’s know-how. The women of Kombissiri still carry out most of the stages in the production of the butter by hand, particularly the crushing, roasting and churning. They intend to invest part of their income in equipment, build better-suited production workshops and sustainably reinvest the income from fair trade.
CRUSHING THE NUTS WITH A PESTLE
This helps to fragment the kernel. The kernels are roasted on the spot and crushed in the public mill.
This step consists of separating the butter from the cake (the rest of the nut) by kneading and churning the shea paste.
The fatty matter is heated in order to eliminate the water, until a froth appears.
During the cooling phase, the impurities are removed and the oil obtained is filtered. This comes just before the final packaging in cardboard boxes before exporting. If the shea is not packaged immediately, the filtering operations are nevertheless carried out to store the butter in barrels. When the butter is absolutely cold, it becomes solid.
How terre d’Oc
Since 2013, we have been working alongside these women and we are sensitive to their day-to-day problems. They work incessntly to feed their famlies, cannot and do not know how to look after themselves and have never seen a doctor.
In order to set up these actions in the field from the practical point of view, terre d’Oc has financed the position of a chargé de mission for 12 months to set up the commercialisation of the butter and help to obtain the group’s Organic and FFL certification. Every year, we organise a collection of clothes and medicine and in 2015, we were able to send 70 pairs of boots to prevent snake bites, gloves aganst burns, biafine, medicine, etc.
The association decides democratically how the fair trade premium awarded by terre d’Oc is distributed every year and generally helps widows and orphans in the locality. Part of the income generated by the sale of the butter enables the creation of a solidarity fund to pay for medicine, the school canteen and funeral costs.
With the 2015 premium 2015, one of the villages, Bebtenga, chose to buy three mattresses for the maternity clinic, and the other two villages bought goats for each village. In each village, six women were given a goat to rear, and when the goats give birth, the kids will be given to other women in the groups. At the beginning of 2016, we financed a GPS to make it easier to identify and list parcels in the forest.
In June 2016, the Manosque Essential Huma association went to Burkina. With considerable experience of solidarity actions, the association regularly goes to Burkina to set up actions (building construction, donations of computer equipment and other objects, distribution of glasses). Following our contact with the association, Erwan opticien went to the Kombissiri group and distributed 45 pairs of glasses collected in France.
In exchange we have collected from our employees and customers, over 110 pairs of glasses that it will be able to distribute during its next trip. A container with clothes and school supplies is sent to the women during the year with schools books, encyclopedias and dictionaries from a neighbouring high school to the schools of Kombissiri.
Shea Butter attested ORGANIC and Fair For Life by ECOCERT
and labeled ORGANIC FREE TRADE.