PlaNet Finance, the global non-profit microfinance organisation, says its shea butter project in northern Ghana has employed 3,500 women so far, and will create at least 1,500 more jobs next year.
The project, which started 16 months ago, involves the provision of financial and other assistance to women involved in shea butter production to boost their output and incomes.
PlaNet Finance has provided gloves for picking the shea nuts, grading mills for processing and silos to store the shea butter for up to two years. Additionally, the women have received mobile phones to help them check the prices of shea butter in markets in the cities.
French economist and President of PlaNet Finance, Jacques Attali, told B&FT during a visit to Ghana to see the project that his organisation intends to move up the supply-chain by establishing a factory to add value to the shea butter produced.
Currently, part of the production is sold as raw material to a local cosmetics-maker and the rest exported to Europe.
�What we intend to do after 2013 is to establish a social business with the women as shareholders that tries to pursue the highest form of value-addition to the product,� he said.
He said a study by Stanford University in the US showed the project improved the living standards of the women involved by 65 percent in the first year. �But this is more than money. It is also a means to keep the women in the villages and stem migration to the cities,� he said.
His organisation is hoping to use its success in Ghana as a model that can be replicated in other countries. �Ghana is a pioneer-country for us, because we want to develop this kind of activity around the world to help poor women improve their production and make more money,� Jacques Attali said.
PlaNet Finance coordinates the project through its local headquarters in Tamale. Its partners include Agence Franςaise de D�veloppement (AFD), the European Union and German software company, SAP, which together provided the �6.5 million funding for the project.
Globally, the organisation works in 80 countries and manages US$1 billion in funds.
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