“SheKeeper” is the name of a 3-year and $2 million partnership project between the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) mission to Ghana, the USAID/West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub), and Burt’s Bees®, a US company that sources shea butter and beeswax.
As a result, around 1,200 smallholder Ghanaian shea farming women will receive beekeeping training so they can diversify and enjoy a substantial increase in their incomes. Perhaps as much as 10 to 20 times more than before. The insects that were previously little more than a nuisance to them will soon transform their lives.
Sharon Cromer is the Director of the USAID/Ghana Mission. According to her, there is growing demand for such commodities as honey, beeswax, and shea. This partnership will increase private investment and demonstrate that shea collectors can profitably produce and sell them.
Burt’s Bees® will create economic opportunities and a better quality of life for more of the 16 million women that collect and process shea in 21 African countries, by way of additional private investment.
This unrelated 4:37-minute video by World Vision Ghana looks at beekeeping as a way to provide income to rural women:
Burt’s Bees® will introduce beekeeping and support beeswax, honey, and shea production by leveraging its grant from USAID/Ghana through the Trade Hub. Shea and similar crops benefit from bee pollination. Shea plants within a range of 2 to 3 kilometers from the beehives enjoy increased yields of up to 30 percent.
This partnership will also upgrade a shea processing facility outside of Tamale, Ghana. This will significantly increase its capacity to produce hand-crafted shea butter. Reducing its need for firewood will improve environmental impact, as well as safety and health conditions for workers.
About 600,000 West African women depend on the shea butter production industry as the only source of cash income. This is traditionally a women’s vocation. Three women’s groups within its shea supply chain will be chosen by Burt’s Bees® to pilot this beekeeping project. Equipment, training, and export markets will be provided. Burt’s Bees’ suppliers will be reliable and sustainable buyers for farmers by purchasing and exporting all shea and beeswax from these groups.
According to Shannon Hess, Burt’s Bees® Director of Responsible Sourcing, by introducing the multi-generational practice of beekeeping, the USAID Burt’s Bees® SheKeeper activity will foster community and commercial partnerships with shea-producing women’s groups. Beekeeping creates opportunities for greater economic empowerment of women and youth, and biodiversity for future generations.
The Trade Hub and USAID/Ghana expect to see the value of shea and beeswax exports, including to the United States, increase as a result of this program by at least $1 million through 2024.
It is endearing that the bees are also almost all female worker bees. It seems that the Ghanaian women will be as busy as bees, as humans and insects work together at the beehives.