AAK will expand the groups, who pick the shea kernels which are an ingredient in the special fats the firm sells to the confectionary industry, from 10,000 to 30,000.
AAK’s sourcing and trading director Knud Larsson told ConfectionaryNews.com: “We area market leader, there is no one else in Burkino Faso with such close contacts in the shea market – we are a front runner in this sort of project.”
The increase will ensure “better quality control” and ensure “supply meets demand” of shea kernels used in its ingredients.
The speciality oil and fat producer signed an agreement with the country’s government last week to continue working with the women, who are split into groups of 60-100.
In return, the women are provided with help and education to fight against poverty and improve living conditions in the villages, said the company who started the project in 2008.
Shea kernels grow in the wild and cannot be farmed so need to be collected, said Larsson.
He added: “30,000 [women involved] is just a step in the road, it is not an end stone – we hope to have a national impact with this project.
“The crop is picked once a day and is annually collected during summer.
“The government is interested because within the groups that are organised there is a framework for other things such as education and business.
“The project started three years ago and it is a learning curve for us to get to know the formula, but we have a direct influence with the prime producer in the supply chain of shea kernels.”
AAK said the partnership is based on fair trade principles, ensuring the women receive a steady income and a bonus for delivering high-quality products, but without binding them to trading with the firm if there are selling opportunities elsewhere.
Larsson said they had employed local staff and extension workers to benefit from knowledge and obtain a good production from shea trees.
“We are educating the women in handling shea kernels to ensure the best quality and as well as a basic rate, we pay a quality bonus for the groups advantage.
“There is a big demand for our products in the marketplace, as shea is an unknown commodity for use in confectionary products.”
AAK have been sourcing the shea kernels in West Africa since the 1950s and use them in special fat ingredients that are sold to confectionary producers and shea-based oils to the cosmetic industry.
Larsson said the agreement strengthened the commitment to the government and the people of Burkina Faso.
“It gives us supply security with direct contact with the strategic raw material, as consumer and producer are in close contact to ensure optimal handling quality.”