U.S. Supports Shea Parkland Restoration Initiative and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ghana

Ambassador Sullivan filling her seedling bag with soil in preparation for planting.

Accra, GHANA— On Wednesday, August 12, 2020, the United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) launched the Action for Shea Parklands (ASP) initiative.  Spearheaded by GSA, this initiative seeks to promote, plant, and protect the shea parklands while advancing a shea industry commitment to plant ten million trees across West Africa over the next ten years.  In Ghana, 20,000 trees will be planted across the five northern regions this year alone.

To commemorate the launch, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan joined members of the Global Shea Alliance and women shea cooperative leaders to plant 50 shea seedlings in seedling bags which will be transported to the Northern Region of Ghana for planting during the 2021 shea season.

Ambassador Sullivan applauded the project’s partners during her remarks, stating, “Given the impact of the industry on improving incomes for women and their families, I’ve been excited to witness first-hand the enormous growth of the shea export industry in Ghana.  U.S. companies and consumers continue to play a key role in this growth, ensuring that the industry contributes to Ghana’s economic development while meeting the highest social and environmental standards.”

Togo and Benin are also pilot countries for the ASP initiative.  In August 2020, 6,000 trees will be planted in northern Togo by 500 rural farmers, including 300 women. The seedlings were acquired from a network of small community nurseries established in 2019.  In Benin, the Fédération Nationale des Productrices d’amandes et de beurre de Karité du Bénin (FNPK), the umbrella of women cooperatives, launched the shea planting campaign as part of ASP in June 2020.  The campaign involves 400 women from the northern regions in Benin who planted 2,400 trees in July this year.

The initiative also highlights the importance of bolstering women’s economic development activities in Ghana.  Shea is a primary source of livelihood for women living in northern Ghana.  In partnership with USAID, GSA is leading the industry’s sustainability effort.  To date 100,000 seedlings have been raised and 8,000 shea trees planted with private sector funding under the USAID-funded “Sustainable Shea Initiative” (SSI), a public-private partnership with GSA. The SSI is an $18 million, five-year program that promotes the sustainable expansion of the shea industry in Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso as well as increases the incomes of rural women, who form the backbone of the industry.


Read Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan’s Remarks below: 

Ambassador Sullivan’s Remaris for Action for Shea Parklands

Virtual Launch and Shea Tree Seedling Demonstration Planting,

Location: CMR, Accra- Ghana

Wednesday August 12, 2020| 9:00 a.m.- 10:30 a.m.


Distinguished guests, friends, colleagues,

ladies and gentlemen, all protocoals – including COVID-19 protocols – observed:

Akwaaba.  Daaseba. Amaraaba!

I’m delighted to welcome you into my home today to join me in launching the 2020 “Action for Shea Parklands” tree planting effort led by the Global Shea Alliance, with support from the the U.S. Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and private sector.

Thank you for honoring our invitation, Especially those of you who made the trip from the North! Madame Afishetu, Thank you for your moving words about what shea means to you and your community. You probably can’t tell that I am wearing lip balm That has shea butter as a key ingredient!

Although I would’ve loved to visit the shea parklands in northern Ghana again to launch this event in person, today’s event here in Accra is important to demonstrate, symbolically, our collective efforts to promote, plant, and protect shea trees and support the communities and women whose incomes depend on them.  Nearly 400 million shea trees grow naturally in traditional farming systems in Northern Ghana.

These trees provide enormous benefits for approximately 600,000 rural Ghanaian women.  They provide fresh fruits for consumption; a healthy vegetable oil for cooking and cosmetics; and income through market sales.  The trees also help to preserve local ecosystems.  Shea exports provide $33 million U.S. dollars annually to the incomes of women producers in Ghana, representing up to 12% of family income.

Given the impact of the industry on improving incomes for women and their families, I’ve been excited to witness first-hand the enormous growth of the shea export industry in Ghana. I’ve had the honot to attend the outdooring of two new shea processing facilities in the Northern Region that are the result of productive public private partnerships. U.S. companies and consumers continue to play a key role in this growth, ensuring that the shea industry contributes to Ghana’s economic development, while meeting the highest social and sustainable environmental standards.

The future of shea depends on the health and welfare of not just the trees, but also the women and their communities who care for the trees.  Unfortunately, that future is under threat.  According to the Global Shea Alliance, more than 7.9 million shea trees are lost every year under the pressures of urbanization and clearing land for agricultural use.

The U.S. Government, through USAID, has supported the establishment and growth of the Global Shea Alliance over the past decade to strengthen the organization and mobilization of the private sector and other stakeholders to address exactly this type of shared challenge.

That’s why I’m here today with the Global Shea Alliance in support of “Action for Shea Parklands,” an initiative aimed at mobilizing public and private-sector stakeholders across the shea industry to come together in an unprecedented effort to plant 10 million trees over the next 10 years in the shea parklands across West Africa.

This project is being piloted in Ghana, and this year will include planting more than 20,000 trees across Ghana’s five northern regions. The Action for Shea Parklands also complements the U.S. Government’s support for the One Trillion Tree Initiative.

Earlier this year, the United States joined the global effort to plant trees and better protect and manage forests to provide economic and environmental benefits, such as those from sustainably managed shea trees. We believe that the most advanced carbon capture tool available to the world is planting trees in our backyards and on degraded lands.

In partnership with the women shea collectors who are here with us today, we will plant shea seeds in special loamy soil bags. These seedlings will be cared for in a nursery in Tamale and used for the 2021 tree planting period.  I hope to be able to check on the progress of the trees next year in person up north when it is time to plant them. Investing in the future sometimes requires us to get our hands dirty!

I want to thank the Global Shea Alliance and all of the partners who are participating to advance this project.  Together, we can ensure the sustainability of the shea industry for generations to come. Together let’s promote, plant, and protect shea parklands!

Thank you!




About USAID/West Africa

The USAID/West Africa mission goal is to promote social and economic well-being in the region.  Spanning 21 countries, USAID/West Africa designs and implements programs with West African partners to strengthen systems of non-violent conflict management, support economic growth, and expand quality health services.  For more information please visit https://www.usaid.gov/west-africa-regional.