KARLSHAMN, SWEDEN — Mars, Inc., AAK, non-governmental organizations and an investment fund have created a public-private partnership to improve the lives of women working in Ghana’s shea supply chain. The Women in Shea (WISH) initiative aims to reach 13,000 women shea collectors from more than 150 communities in northern Ghana.

The project seeks to expand women’s access to savings and financial credits, improve natural resource management techniques, and reduce the time and labor associated with shea kernel collection and processing.

Karlshamn-based AAK supplies Mars with cocoa butter equivalents based on shea butter for chocolate and confectionery applications. The WISH project builds on AAK’s direct sourcing program, Kolo Nafaso, with women smallholder farmers in West Africa.

“WISH is a ground-breaking partnership of stakeholders in the shea supply chain, combining the knowledge and influence of both the public and private sector,” said Anne Mette Olesen, chief strategy and sustainability director for AAK. “The potential for positive, sustainable transformation is huge, especially in light of the holistic, long-term and practical approach being taken by all parties involved.”

Other partners include:

  • The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty and strengthen democratic governance;
  • The Livelihoods for Family Farming (L3F), an investment fund launched in 2015 together with Mars and Danone and later joined by Firmenich and Veolia;
  • CARE International, which has operated in Ghana since 1994; and
  • Presbyterian Agricultural Services (PAS), a Ghanaian not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that has delivered agriculture advisory services to farmer organizations for over 50 years.