The cost of Free Trade certification is a barrier for African women who want to trade competitively through international markets. Read how Ripples Ghana breaks that barrier for 3,800 village women through its Women’s Enterprise program. Join our Sponsor a Woman program or donate here to support the women in our Women’s Enterprise program, so they can expand their businesses and make ripples of change by investing in the future of their children and communities.
Early morning during harvest season, Zuwera wakes from her bed. She checks on her two sleeping daughters, the only survivors of 12 births, and then takes her basket, hand-woven straw dyed in vibrant hues of red, green and blue, to ‘the bush’ that lines the border of her village. Once there, she will fill her basket to the brim with ripe Shea nuts that grow wild. She will take these nuts to her local Women’s Enterprise Production Center, where workers are washing, crushing, and drying them on stone beds under the hot Ghanaian sun. An older woman, no less than 50 years old, is crouched over a metal bowl, her right arm whipping thick, brown Shea paste, while her left adds water intermittently. After beating the paste three-thousand nine-hundred and eighty times, the woman scoops the fat that has risen to the top of the bowl and carries it to a colossal communal pot of boiling water near her station. Careful to avoid the firewood burning underneath, she pours her bounty into the aluminum pot, and Zuwera cooks the paste until the water evaporates. Her friend Hauwa uses a long metal spoon to sample the simmering oil and ensure its quality before deeming it suitable for sale.
These oils are organic, eco-friendly, naturally sourced, hand-crafted Shea Butter, a product that has a rich heritage in Ghana and the rest of West Africa. Medicinal, cosmetic and food-grade oils like Shea are rich in Vitamin A and essential fats that have helped women through pregnancy and have formed the basis for food staples in the region. Ripples Women’s Enterprise in Ghana was founded in 2011 to standardize and scale Shea production in the country for domestic and international trade. Since its start, it has grown from helping 1,200 women in its beginning stages to helping now over 3,800 Ghanaian village women start businesses producing Grade A, B and C Shea Butter.
“Doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of the African village woman after my own experience was, for me, not an option,” states Anne Toba, CEO and Founder of Ripples Foundation in an interview, “Many of these women have lost 12 or 13 children. How could they just do nothing when they have held their own child dying in their hands?”
Through its pillar Women’s Enterprise Program the Ripples Foundation gives training in Shea Butter production to women in Ghana to connect remote African economies to the international market. The externally sourced revenues from their sustainable businesses inject foreign dollars into their village economies and communities. Every dollar earned by a Ripples Foundation trained women’s enterprise goes to protecting the lives of Ghanaian children, present and future. This is through the investment of these women in medical infrastructure, shelter and education; anything that serves to ensure a brighter life for children than the one they had to live.
International trade is important to the future of Africa’s children in these communities, and Fair Trade as a movement has always sought to ensure that remote economies have access to the opportunities of the free market. Certifications such as the Free Trade Certification have arisen and are rightfully sought for by consumers in developed countries who desire high-quality and socially responsible merchandise and want to contribute to a global movement for peace and prosperity. A study conducted by Racula Dragusandu and Nathan Nunn of Harvard University in 2014 finds that Fair Trade certification increases profits of certified products crafted by skilled artisans significantly.
Yet with all of its benefits, there is a significant obstacle that currently stands in the way of all impoverished people in developed countries, and that is the cost. Fair Trade Certification is expensive: US$12 – US$15,000 per certification per product – and it cannot be shared. This means that development from these advantages is uneven, which fosters a global inequality of opportunity. Under the Ripples Foundation umbrella over 3,800 women trained in hand-crafted Shea Butter production can have access to our Free Trade Certification to market their products internationally and earn a sustainable income for their family and community.
Shea nuts in Ghana grow wild. Ripple’s training works with each village’s available resources and customs to provide indigenous women equal opportunity for economic security through their businesses. We encourage the women we train to invest back into their communities, provide work opportunities for youth, and build a dream for their children. Fair Trade Certification would not only increase their ability to provide for themselves and their families; it would accelerate the pulse of local commercial activity and create working opportunities for at-risk youth.
15,000 dollars would help bring the products of 3,800 women to international consumers, bringing income to villages desperately in need of investment. Through its Sponsor a Woman program, Ripples is raising money for Free Trade Certification for its Ghana Women’s Enterprise program. With this, Ghanaian businesswomen trained in Ripples’ certified systems will be able to sell under its name on the global marketplace. How can we expect Ghanaian village women to raise 15,000 dollars without help?
Ripples hopes to have certification for all of its Women’s Enterprise programs, including Ripples Farm, which is currently training 2,000 women in villages in Nigeria on sustainable, profitable farming.
Click on the links below to learn more about our sponsorship programs or donate here to support women benefiting from Ripples Foundation’s Women’s Enterprise Program in Ghana. Learn more about Shea Butter production in Ghana on Ripples Youtube.