This is an abstract from a field research placement that saw an LLM student from the University of Strathclyde work with Challenges Worldwide during Summer 2016 to conduct field research for their MSc dissertation.
With a revived momentum for economic growth and sustainability, Africa needs identified avenues to promote sustainable economic growth congruent with environmental and social benefits. The increasing growth of the shea industry and its importance to people in northern Ghana and Uganda makes it an industry worth exploring to ascertain its capacity to promote economic growth, environmental protection and social well-being i.e. sustainable development. This research therefore, sought to explore the role of the Shea industry towards sustainable development and poverty alleviation in Uganda and Ghana. The findings showed that, the shea industry provides economic opportunities in jobs, income, product output and market. Market access opportunities through trade agreements like EPA and AGOA also helps ease entrance to the foreign confectionary and cosmetics industries whose demand is the current backbone of the shea industry resulting in the industry’s growth. Also, environmental benefits were found in the shea industry by way of shea tree conservation, ecosystem benefits, reduction in GHG emissions and from environmental vulnerabilities. Additionally, social benefits by way of women empowerment, capacity building and community transformation were also found. However, challenges like legal restrictions curbing the quantity of shea used in chocolate products, standardisation, threats to shea trees, limited protection laws for shea trees and most especially disconnection of shea nut pickers from evenly benefiting from the industry acts as trade barriers which curbs the industry’s development and affects its economic, social and environmental opportunities. Nonetheless, these challenges were seen as insufficient to inherently offset or take away the industry’s capability to facilitate Sustainable Development. Furthermore, the industry’s capacity to help alleviate poverty through its economic, environmental and social opportunities as well as provide access and participation of the poor living in Northern Uganda and Ghana respectively in viable economic endeavours were seen to be significant. Consequently, making the shea industry a key avenue towards the achievement of SDGs 1 and aspiration 1 of Africa Agenda 2063, and aspiration 6 and several SDG targets is something to be greatly considered by government, NGOs and businesses.
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