Amina Mahammadu is a farmer at Mozio in the Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo district of the Northern Region of Ghana. She is a widow and a mother of seven (2 girls and 5 boys). As a widow, she engaged in a daily struggle to feed her children and also meet other basic needs. Women especially in northern Ghana live under difficult circumstances as subsistence farmers. They must cope with poor, rocky soil, unreliable rains, and little public infrastructure such as affordable transportation, health care or education.
Sheanuts (from the sheanut tree, Vitellaria paradoxa formerly called Butyrospermum paradoxum) play an important part in income generation in northern Ghana. Sheabutter processing and extraction remains the major economic activity and independent income source of most rural women. Sheanut picking and sheabutter processing became the business of Amina which she relied on for the upkeep of her family. Trax Ghana and its partner Tree Aid discovered many problems when it began to concentrate on Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) for rural wealth creation such as the shea industry at Mozio. Most of the problems were related to inefficient industrial practices including working as individuals instead of forming cooperatives that can play a significant role on economic development
Trax Ghana staff sensitized and facilitated the formation of Mozio women sheabutter cooperative with Amina as a member. The group benefited from capacity building training programmes focusing on areas such as group dynamics, business management, leadership skills, conflict management and record keeping.
As a result of the training, group members were well equipped with knowledge and skills in sheanut picking and sheabutter processing business.
Now, with the income produced from shea butter processing, Amina is finally seeing some real improvement in her family. Not only can she afford three square meals a day for the family, but all of her children are enrolled in school. The first son is currently in the University and the second is in Senior High School. The remaining five children are at various stages in Junior High and primary schools
There are intangible benefits as well. When we first started working with the group, they were very timid, and felt unable to bring about real change in their lives. But now members such as Amina are feeling empowered and in-charge and can dare to dream about a better future. They have also realized the value of working together and helping each other succeed. As one of the women said, “before [forming a cooperative] we didn’t do things in common. But now we can come together as women and share ideas. Now we have confidence to work together and not be shy.”