The importance of shea – natural, sustainable, beneficial For decades, shea oil has been used as a natural and valued ingredient in several food applications, oftentimes as a replacement for, or improver of, cocoa butter in the confectionery industry. For AAK, shea is a unique and very important raw material, 4 and as a result of the company’s sourcing operations in West Africa, many women in the region have significantly improved their lives. The shea tree is a wild-growing tree that can only be found in the Sahel belt of West Africa. The tree is very important for the countries in the region, as its fruit provides nutrition and income to the population in the rural areas, and as the bark, leaves, sap and roots are used for traditional medical purposes. In addition, the trees contribute to the prevention of desertification. The trees flower and the fruit develops during April and May. When the fruit has ripened it falls to the ground, where it may be consumed by bats, thereby spreading the growth of new trees in a natural way. As the kernel of the ripened fruit sprouts easily, it is important to collect the fruits immediately after they have fallen to the ground. Traditionally, women collect the shea fruits, and during part of the year these fruits make up a significant proportion of people’s diet. The kernels are boiled, deshelled and dried. Some kernels are kept for household use, and the rest are sold. “The income from selling the kernels makes an important contribution to the families’ economy, enabling them to pay for school fees, clothing and farm equipment”, says Aude Traoré, Sourcing & Trading Manager for shea at AAK in West Africa.
Insight AAK No 3 2016 E-book
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