The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has stated that sheanut tree can be grown on commercial basis in the country’s savanna regions in much the same way as how cocoa, rubber and other cash crops are cultivated on plantations.
It follows extensive research into how to commercialise the shea tree to ensure the country derives maximum value from the plant.
The research was carried out by the substation of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) at Bole in the Northern Region.
The Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, told the Daily Graphic in Accra after interacting with the Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association (COCOSHE).
Consequently, Mr Aidoo said the board would start the country's first commercial plantation of sheanut next year to help increase yields from the tree and empower farmers economically.
He explained that the research looked at enhancing the growth of the tree through seedling production and grafting.
It also explored diseases facing the plant and how to deal with them as well as fertilisers that can be used to enhance the growth and yield of the tree.
The research further found that intercropping young shea plantations with food crops such as maize, cowpea and groundnuts in addition to applying fertiliser can also enhance the growth of the tree.
The sheanut tree
Currently, the sheanut tree, from which shea butter is derived, grows in the wild in the Northern, Upper East and West regions.
Its fruits are mostly handpicked and processed on small and large scale into shea butter for the local and international markets.
Mr Aidoo said that practice which often exposed the pickers to snakes and other dangers would be replaced by commercial farms.
He thus encouraged chiefs and landowners to release lands to farmers for sheanut plantations.
The Chief Executive Officer was optimistic that commercialisation of the plant would help maximise its benefits to the nation and improve the livelihoods of farmers.
According to Mr Aidoo, the board was currently organising training programmes for farmers in selected communities in the Northern, Upper West and East regions in preparation for the full take off next year.
He said the board had developed shea parklands at Dorimon and Wechau in the Wa West District, where 240 seedlings had been supplied for the establishment of a six-acre shea parkland. Another 20-acre shea parkland has also been developed in the Wa East District by United Purpose, a non-governmental organisation, with support from CRIG scientists.
In the Upper East Region, Mr Aidoo said the Agriculture and Natural Resource Management unit had begun shea development training in 10 communities in Builsa Yenning for CRIG scientists to undertake the training.
“A total of 150-acre shea parklands have also been developed in three communities in the Bole, Sawla Tuna Kalba and Damongo districts in the Northern Region by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with assistance from CRIG scientists,” he added.
It is currently estimated that the shea business fetches the country an average of $200 million every year through export of the raw nuts and the butter.
The business also employs thousands of people, mostly women, in the savannah regions of the country.