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Special partnership makes female entrepreneurs less vulnerable

Selling shea nuts they gathered themselves is how many women in Mali and Burkina Faso earn a living. It's a precarious, season-dependent livelihood – but thanks to a public-private partnership, more and more female entrepreneurs in these countries have additional sources of income.

In Mali and Burkina Faso, gathering and selling shea nuts is traditionally women's work. Women have organised themselves into cooperatives. Together, they supply their nuts to the French company OLVEA, and others, who turn it into shea butter – a popular ingredient in cosmetics. OLVEA was looking for a way to increase the quality of the shea nuts and provide greater income security for the women. To achieve this, it launched 'She Sells Shea', a public-private partnership (PPP) with the local government and the development organisation ICCO, in 2014.

Year-round income

She Sells Shea also teaches the female entrepreneurs how to cultivate sesame plants and ben oil trees. OLVEA can process the seeds from these crops into edible oil and they have a different growing and harvesting season to the karité, the tree that grows shea nuts. This lets them earn money all year round. It increases their income and they are less susceptible to financial setbacks or crop failures due to climate change. The female entrepreneurs are also given training to improve their crops, so they yield a higher price. Partly due to She Sells Shea's efforts, the price has already increased following the fair-trade and organic certification of their nuts. Furthermore, the female entrepreneurs learn how they can use the three crops for consumption, allowing them to increase their food security.

Successful investments

Thanks to the PPP, 31,000 women in Mali and Burkina Faso have seen their income rise. Half of all successful investments in She Sells Shea come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV). The other half comes mainly from OLVEA, as well as from ICCO and smaller She Sells Shea partners.

More information

You can learn more about She Shells Shea by watching the video. Would you like to contribute to sustainable objectives in developing countries through a public-private partnership as well? The FDOV scheme is now closed, but you can obtain support through the SDG Partnership Facility. Submit your application (concept note) before 1 October 2019.