Shea kernel

Shea nuts are primarily grown in West and Central Africa, in the semi-arid Sahel popularly referred to by traders as the “Shea Belt”. The demand for Shea is minimally driven by the cosmetics industry and primarily by confectioners as Cocoa Butter Equivalent (CBE) – derived from a mix of Shea stearin and palm mid fraction – increasingly replaces cocoa butter for its reduced cost.

Nigeria is the largest producer of Shea nuts (425,000MT) but contributes relatively little (45,000MT) to world exports.[1] Shea trees can be found in most parts of northern Nigeria; Kaduna, Jigawa, Niger, Kogi and Benue being major producing states. Production is dominated by women, the nuts typically picked and processed by women’s groups. Some problems identified within the value chain in Nigeria are the low quality of Shea kernels produced by nut pickers, limited knowledge of how to improve kernel quality, and disruptions of middlemen who offer very low prices to the women; effectively diminishing any incentive to improve output.

Our Strategy

Improving the quality of Shea kernels

The quality of Shea butter is determined by the quality of kernels used. The first five steps in processing – collection of fruits, de-pulping, washing of nuts, parboiling, and drying – determine the quality of the kernels derived as they affect the levels of free fatty acid (FFA), Peroxide (PV) and fungus. Limited knowledge and access to information means that majority of nut pickers continue to use traditional methods to collect and process Shea nuts.

Propcom Mai-karfi’s intervention strategy is to identify new processors/buyers entering the Shea market, and help them build supply networks directly with women producer groups. This will ensure that kernels produced and supplied meet or come close to meeting quality requirements. To implement this, Propcom Mai-karfi will provide capacity building support to procurement officers to be recruited by processors/buyers as part of the supply strategy. These procurement officers will go on to train the women producer groups on quality standard parameters and best practices for producing high quality kernels, and also facilitate procurement of processed quality kernels.

Addressing the low income of women

Supplying high quality kernels will attract premium prices for women groups and increase their income. Propcom Mai-karfi will support processors/buyers in the design of efficient supply chain systems for supervising procurement officers, pre-financing purchases, and transporting purchased kernels from the communities to warehouses. This will ensure that they pay better prices to the women, whilst remaining profitable. Propcom Mai-karfi anticipates that with their increased profits, the women are incentivized to keep improving the quality of their output, as well as the volume of production.

In 2014, Propcom Mai-karfi signed an MOU with SALID Agriculture Nigeria Limited (SANL) – a Shea trading company establishing a 48,000MT capacity Shea processing plant in Niger State. SANL engaged and trained procurement officers, and has piloted a model to improve the quality of purchased kernels and their supply chain. Initially focused on Niger State, SANL identified and trained shea women groups on quality nut processing, and in 2014 purchased 206MT of shea kernels from 256 women. Each woman received a net income increase of about NGN13,000.



[1] Olife, I, C, Onwualu, A.P and Jolaoso, M.A (2013), Developing the Shea Value Chain for Wealth Creation in Nigeria Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare ISSN 2224-3208 (Paper)  ISSN 2225 Vol.3, No.5, 2013

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