Sustainability In Practice: Presbyterian Agricultural Services
In an effort to contribute to the socio-economic development of the Ghanaian people, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana has provided participatory and innovative agricultural development services in Northern Ghana since the 1960s.
In 2005, Presbyterian Agricultural Services (PAS) began facilitating the sale of shea kernels and butter by rural women to help them enhance their income and uplift communities in Northern and Upper East regions. Currently, PAS works with 6,000 women shea collectors and four shea processors in four districts of Northern Ghana — East Gonja, East Mamprusi, Garu-Tempane, and Builsa North.
In 2013, PAS joined the GSA in order to participate effectively and efficiently in the shea industry. Through the GSA, Presbyterian Agricultural Services has assisted women’s groups in gaining access to potential markets for shea, facilitated linkages to financing and other value chain actors, and participated in the Global Shea Alliance sustainability program.
In line with the sustainability program’s focus on women’s empowerment, PAS has mobilized women shea collectors and processors by training them on production of quality shea kernels and butter, cooperative structure, and market linkages. In 2014, under a grant financed by ICCO Cooperation in the Netherlands, PAS constructed a warehouse in Fooshegu, a community near Tamale, in the Northern region of Ghana. With a capacity of 160MT, the warehouse serves over 1,000 women from 20 different women’s groups in neighboring communities. In 2016, Presbyterian Agricultural Services constructed an additional warehouse in Adubiliyili—Tamale, Northern Region.
Using the GSA’s guidelines for best practices on quality shea nuts, Presbyterian Agricultural Services has trained 4,000 women on quality shea nut processing. During the training, women learn about optimal techniques for collecting, drying and roasting the shea kernels inside the nuts. Sulemana Sanatu of Janton-Wulanyili in the East Gonja District believes these trainings have made a positive difference in her community.
“I used to collect 4bags (320kg) of fresh nuts per season. I often did not parboil or cook them the fresh nuts on time and only heaped the nuts under a tree for about 3-4weeks before parboiling or cooking them. During this period, I always observed that the nuts got moldy and sometimes germinated. This often reduces the quality and quantity of good nuts after processing from 4 bags (320 kg) to about 1.5bags (120kg) which I send to the market to sell,” says Sanatu.
“However, in 2013, PAS staff trained together with my colleagues in my community on best practices for good quality that I have adopted and now practice every Shea season. I now sell an average of 3- 3.5 bags (240kg-280kg) of high quality nuts at premium prices per season and this has help me raise money from my shea nuts than I used to get.”
In the near future, Presbyterian Agricultural Services hopes to continue its existing projects, build more warehouses, and introduce both village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) and energy-efficient cook stoves for women’s groups.