Mars has joined forces with plant-based oil specialist, AAK, several NGOs and an impact investment fund to create a public-private partnership to improve the livelihoods of women working in Ghana’s shea supply chain.
Running until 2030, the Women in Shea (WISH) initiative aims to reach 13,000 women shea collectors from more than 150 communities in northern Ghana.
Stakeholders in the WISH initiative have the common goal to bring economic and social benefits to the 13,000 women in the program and promote environmental improvements for the shea tree parklands while meeting the growing market demand for high-quality shea kernels.
Project goals will be achieved through expanding the women’s access to savings and financial credits, improving natural resource management techniques, and reducing the time burden and labour intensity of the work associated with shea kernel collection and processing. Each of these areas will enable the women in impacted communities to gain more from the kernels they collect.
In the long term, the project will also have a positive impact on the quantity and quality of shea kernels, and the overall sustainability of the shea supply chain. AAK supplies Mars with cocoa butter equivalents based on shea butter for chocolate and confectionery applications.
The companies have committed to purchasing the shea kernels produced within the WISH initiative for its decade-long duration.
The project builds on AAK’s existing direct sourcing program, Kolo Nafaso, through which the company sources shea kernels directly from women smallholder farmers in West Africa, enabling them to increase their income sustainably. It is also closely aligned with AAK’s corporate purpose – Making Better Happen.
Luis Parra, Global Business Director for Chocolate & Confectionery Fats at AAK, said: “The WISH initiative will deliver economic and social benefits to the women in the project and promote environmental improvements for the shea tree parklands.
“It will also provide sustainable shea kernels that AAK will transform into high-quality products for Mars to use in its chocolate and confectionery brands. The WISH initiative is a true collaboration effort and we are thrilled to be involved.”
Anne Mette Olesen, AAK’s Chief Strategy & Sustainability Officer, added: “WISH is a ground-breaking partnership of stakeholders in the shea supply chain, combining the knowledge and influence of both the public and private sector.
“The potential for positive, sustainable transformation is huge, especially in light of the holistic, long-term, and practical approach being taken by all parties involved.”