The 5th annual Shea conference held in Benin in April saw the participation of SVN Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali. Those four countries have been strategic partners in the shea value chain development for the past decade, supporting a total of around 56,000 women in the chain.
The annual conference brings together stakeholders from around the world and promotes Shea products worldwide. More than 480 shea stakeholders from 24 countries attended. Attendees included exporting companies, shea nut traders and pickers, product developers, service providers, NGOs, CSOs supporting producer co-ops, Women’s Shea Butter Associations, processors, financial institutions, shea policy advocacy organisations, cosmetic buyers and producers, researchers, government officials, as well as logistics/transport companies and certification firms.
Benin's Minister for SMEs (left) at the Shea Conference 2012
The 2012 conference under the theme “Shared Value” organised by the West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) was sponsored by stakeholders including SNV, and focused on six sub-themes:
• Sustainable and Quality Shea
• From Butter to Lotion
• Hands on cosmetic workshop
• Credit where credit is due
• Marketing to Market
• Business to Business
SNV’s participation was motivated by networking opportunities and prospects for strengthening our emerging role in the evolving Global Shea Alliance. Also key to our participation is the establishment of an enabling environment for the growth of the shea industry in Africa through the development of a Regional Shea programme in partnership with the Shea Global Alliance. SNV was represented by a seven-member regional team consisting of three advisors from Benin, one advisor from Burkina, one from Mali, two from Ghana, and the Country Directors of SNV in Ghana and Benin.
SNV also ensured the participation of partner womens’ organisations in the event. Representatives of shea producers’ unions were given the opportunity to display and sell their products, exchange with the other value chain actors, explain their technologies and learn from others – in short, to get exposure.
Another benefit for SNV WCA was to connect with members of the West Africa Trade Hub and the West Africa Cashew Alliance (of which SNV Benin is a member) and prepare for the World Cashew Alliance Conference, which will also be held in Cotonou, Benin in September 2012. These happenings collectively had tremendous profiling effects, and increased our visibility and ability to connect at the conference. Overall, Shea 2012 conference brought an enhanced team spirit among the SNV WCA shea team as it offered an opportunity to work together, not only in preparing for the event, but also allowed for a deeper reflection of our work and sharing of our experiences.