All posts tagged shea butter

Improved shea butter changes the life of women in the Fana region of Mali

Mariam Dao, Radio Fanaka’s host
Mariam Koné, reporter/journalist at L’Annonceur journal
Mrs. Awa Traoré, farmer and vice-president of the women’s association of Wolodo village
Mrs. Mah Diarra, farmer and president of the women’s association of Ballan
Mrs. Sitan Fomba, farmer and deputy president of the women’s association of Dien

Host: The following radio program is based on the real-life experience of women in Fana, Mali. It reports on the implementation of the AFRRI project in Mali. By the end of this radio script, we’ll discover how the improved shea butter called Shitulu ngana has changed the lives of women in the region. We’ll be back after a short break with our program. (Editor’s note: Shitulu ngana is the formal name of this type of shea butter in the Bambara language.Tulu ngana is the short form of the name.)

Short musical break

The host: Dear listeners, good evening! Once again, we say thank you for choosing Radio Fanaka, broadcasting at 100.4 FM. Welcome to our weekly show Rural women and development. Today, our program reports on a radio campaign conducted by Radio Fanaka that focused on a production technique for improved shea butter. Back home, we have a proverb that says, “It’s not just a husband who notices a good woman.” In other words, when something is recognized as good or useful, everyone wants it.

Mariam Koné is a journalist at the 100% female L’Annonceur journal. Mrs. Koné conducted interviews with women from the villages of Ballan, Dien and Wolodo. In this program, she reports to women in Bamako and elsewhere how the lives of women in these three villages have been changed thanks to the new technique for producing shea butter. This new technique was publicized through a project in which Radio Fanaka collaborated with Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI. The women that Mrs. Koné interviewed are beneficiaries of this project. Let’s follow their story.

Local song praising shea tree and its blessings. Then the furious rhythm of a tomtom welcomes reporter Mariam Koné to a village. Mariam’s beautiful voice, mixed with the noise of pestles, of singing birds, and of car engines, introduces us to the village of Wolodo.

Mariam Koné: Good evening, dear listeners. We are today in Wolodo, a village located 45 kilometres west of Fana in the rural district of Zan Coulibaly. The village is beside Mali’s National Road #6. When I arrived in the village, I saw a landscape of plants on each side of the asphalt, into which the village nestles like a dream.

After leaving the vehicle, I was welcomed by the president of the village women’s group, Mrs. Awa Traoré. With her were a large number of women and men, including the chief of the village, with an accompaniment of tomtom players. It was a festive atmosphere. Radio Fanaka had made an announcement the day before to inform the village of my arrival and ask villagers to give me a warm welcome. We are now under the palaver or meeting tree in the village of Wolodo. We are meeting with the women who produced improved shea butter this year. I’m starting my interviews by addressing Awa Traoré.

Rhythmic hit of pestles on mortar up, then hold under the conversation

Mariam Koné: Hello, Awa. I learned that you produce very good quality shea butter here. Can you explain to us what kind of shea butter it is?

Awa Traoré: Hello, Mariam. Indeed, we have been producing improved shea butter for a while. We call it Tulu ngana, which means “the best of all butters.”

Mariam Koné: How long have you known about this improved shea butter?

Awa Traoré: Since the AFRRI project arrived at Radio Fanaka in 2007.

Mariam Koné: How did the AFRRI project help you to start making Tulu ngana?

Awa Traoré: Radio Fanaka broadcasts programs on new approaches to agriculture that help ensure food security. The project started by coming to our village and asking us what we were doing and what our needs were. The men talked with the project people, and so did the women. Then the researchers presented a summary of these interviews to us. The men had asked for information about making compost. That was the men’s priority. But our association, all of us, the women of Wolodo, asked for help in adding value to shea butter. Because that’s what we know. Our main concern is to earn much more money from shea butter. Throughout the rainy season, it is our main activity.

Mariam Koné: I understand. Please continue.

Awa Traoré: So that’s when Mariam Dao, a host at Radio Fanaka, started coming with another broadcaster to talk to us about improved shea butter. Her programs were broadcast early every morning on Radio Fanaka. Then, another woman came from Bamako and settled here to teach us techniques for producing improved shea butter.

The women of the village were trained to manufacture improved butter. Radio Fanaka gave us radio sets and pre-paid units for our cellular phones so we could participate in the show – and especially so we could phone in and give our points of view. Never before had any radio station done anything like this. It should be said that we participated in every show! It was really an occasion for us to ask questions to the host on details of making improved shea butter that we had not understood.

Mariam Koné: This means that each of you here can produce the improved butter. Can you explain the different steps in the manufacturing process to our listeners?

Awa Traoré: Of course! Contrary to the butter we used to manufacture in our grandmother’s way, improved shea butter is manufactured in a very particular way, with great care. For a start, one must not store the nuts in a pit dug in the ground. Once the nuts are collected, they must be boiled in an aluminum pot for about forty minutes. After the cooking, we spread the nuts on non-synthetic bags made of cotton or other natural fibres. These bags are one and a half metres above the ground to avoid contact with impurities such as dust or mud.

Mariam Koné: Why?
Awa Traoré: Because mud has a negative effect on the nutritional value of the butter. Also, if you skip a step in the manufacturing process, you won’t get improved butter.

Mariam Koné: Ok.

Awa Traoré: Once the nuts are dried, we shell them, always in a clean place. After that, we pound them, then wash them at least five times. Then we spread them again under the sun. We always spread them on non-synthetic bags away from the soil. We have built a little floor made of small branches attached together to spread the nuts on. Once they have been dried, we roast the nuts again at medium heat in the aluminum pots, without water this time. This is just to heat them up and takes a very short time. After that, we take them to the mill to break them down into a powder.

Mariam Koné: OK. What’s next?

Awa Traoré: The next to last phase is the processing of the powder into a chocolate-coloured dough by adding water. To prepare for this stage, women must wash properly, and remove any jewellery they’re wearing, such as silver rings, earrings and other metals. Once the dough is ready, we put it in the aluminum pots, which have been thoroughly cleaned beforehand.

Now we are at the last phase of making improved shea butter. We cook the dough on a wood fire at more than 100 degrees until we see clean and refined oil in the pot. We then strain the butter through a clean piece of cotton fabric. This straining operation is repeated up to five times to make sure that the butter is rid of any impurity. After that, we stir the oil in one way only to avoid little lumps in the butter.

Mariam Koné: What do you mean by saying, “We stir the oil in one way only”?

Awa Traoré: I mean that if you stir from left to right, the ladle must never go in the opposite direction, that is, from right to left. Once the oil is solidified into butter, we finally have our Tulu ngana. Do you see why we call it the king of butters?

Mariam Koné: Awa, can you tell us more about the difference between improved shea butter and butter manufactured in the traditional way?

Awa Traoré: The first difference is the degree of care we take during the manufacturing. The work requires a lot of effort. But the result is perfect! Another difference is in the manufacturing stage. The old method degrades our environment. The oven requires a lot of wood and it smokes constantly. Worse, traditional shea butter processing leaves a lot of residue. Improved shea butter leaves no residue, which means that the butter is thicker. Even better, the fact that we do not put the nuts in the pit and that we repeatedly wash the nuts prevents the butter from having a bad odour. So the difference is huge.

Mariam Koné: Awa, do you have a sample of improved shea butter here?

Awa Traoré: Yes! Here it is (sound of a container being opened). It is very white and odourless.
Mariam Koné: Oh yes, the butter is oily and very soft. Even better, it doesn’t have a bad odour. What are the benefits you get from this improved shea butter?

Awa Traoré: The first benefit is that we can use it in our homes. Shea butter became more popular with this new formula. We now use it as cooking oil to replace imported oils and oils produced here in Mali. Most importantly, it makes the skin smoother, it has no bad odour, and it can be sold more easily.

Mariam Koné: Tell me about selling the improved shea butter. How is that going?

Awa Traoré: An NGO called The Association Conseil pour le Développement, or ACOD Niètaaso, works on protecting shea trees. One of its key activities is creating income-generating activities for rural women. It started a project to support women from Fana and Zegoua to produce and market improved shea butter. Wolodo village was just granted a facility called the “House of Shea.” This facility will have a multifunctional mill, an administration office, and a store. The facility is still being constructed.

In the meantime, women from Wolodo sell their shea butter at the Marka-Kungo weekly market every Tuesday. This market hosts buyers from Bamako, Segou, Fana, and from as far away as Koutiala. Farmers from nearby villages also attend the market. The women from Wolodo and elsewhere also sell amongst each other in the village and in neighbouring villages.

Mariam Koné: Awa, at what price do you currently sell your butter?

Awa Traoré: I can sell a small ball of improved butter for 50 FCFA (about 10 US cents). The same-sized ball of non-improved butter sells for 25 FCFA. When shea butter is sold at the Marka-Coungo market, it is in a calabash. Some calabashes weigh between four and six kilograms. So the butter is sold by the kilogram. If the butter has no smell, the price may reach FCFA 600-650 (about US$1.25-$1.35) per kilogram. At the beginning of the rainy season, it can even sell for more than FCFA 750. In the market, it’s generally traders from the big cities who buy.

When the House of Shea is operating, the marketing of shea butter will be totally changed. Instead of the women of Wolodo selling unprocessed shea butter, there will be on-site processing and sale of processed products, which will add further value to the butter. The House of Shea will manufacture soap, butter for the skin, and butter for the hair. Those products will be sold in supermarkets in the city and also in Europe, America, and elsewhere in Africa.

Mariam Koné: Thanks, Awa. (Pause) I will now speak with Mrs. Mariam Dao, a broadcaster from Radio Fanaka. Mrs. Dao, Mrs. Awa Traoré just told us that you participated actively in the AFRRI project on improved shea butter manufacturing. Could you tell us more?

Mariam Dao: Indeed. Radio Fanaka’s production team went to each village to help them identify the problems that make their everyday life difficult. Together, we saw that if women in the rural city of Zan Coulibaly were trained, they could change their way of making shea butter. Once we arrived in the villages with extension workers, it was easy for us to identify their problem. That’s how we started the different steps of manufacturing. Every week, I took advantage of my show Women’s rights to talk about the virtues of shea butter, and especially improved shea butter. Through a series of trainings on making shea butter and programs co-hosted by shea butter experts, AFRRI Mali’s expectations that women would earn income and improve their food security were soon met. The women quickly understood the methods. Their first try at making improved shea butter in Wolodo village was a real success.

Mariam Koné: Mrs. Awa Traoré also said that Radio Fanaka allowed them to participate in the show. How did that go?

Mariam Dao: One of the objectives of the AFRRI program was to give rural people the opportunity to explain their problems themselves and attempt to find adequate solutions. Radio broadcasters cannot speak on behalf of others. But if the villages can identify their problem, it is much easier for us to help them.

Mariam Koné: What were the challenges related to the program on improved shea butter?

Mariam Dao: The main challenge is that some villages such as Dien and Ballan haven’t had a chance to produce improved shea butter. Although they have benefited from the advice of extension workers and from radio programs, the weather has been unpredictable and they lack equipment such as pots, bowls and containers for making shea butter.

Mariam Koné: Thank you, Mariam, for these important details.

A local song by women from Wolodo

The host: After visiting Fana, our reporter went to the village of Ballan. Let’s listen.

Amidst the sounds of goats, donkeys and especially hens and axes chopping wood, the reporter introduces us to the village of Ballan.

Mariam Koné: We are still following the path of improved shea butter. We are in Ballan, a village in the rural city of Guegneka, five kilometres from Fana. There are fields in front of the village. Behind the fields is a village divided in three parts. The fields of Ballan village are filled with shea trees whose branches bend under the weight of green shea fruits. This is a good sign for the women of Ballan.

As we enter the village, we can see pits of shea nuts that we must walk around in order to get to the public place. We are welcomed by Mrs. Mah Diarra and her women’s group under the big palaver tree, where we are invaded by small multi-coloured birds. The name of the women’s group is Benkadi, which means “agreement.”(To the women) Good evening!

Women’s voices: (Together) Good evening!

Mariam Koné: I have heard that the women of Ballan can produce improved shea butter, the butter that you callTulu ngana. Is it true? Who can answer my question?
Mah Diarra: I can.

Mariam Koné: OK, but first introduce yourself to our listeners.

Mah Diarra: My name is Mah Diarra. I’m the president of the Benkadi group of Ballan. We learned about new agricultural approaches to ensure food security through shows broadcast by Radio Fanaka. After that, radio staff discussed food security challenges with the men of the village. Making compost was the men’s priority. But the main concern of women’s groups was to take better advantage of shea butter. The production of shea butter is one of the key activities of women in the village.

That’s when Radio Fanaka’s host Mrs. Mariam Dao told us about improved shea butter. Even better, she came to the village with an extension worker to explain how to make it. Radio Fanaka gave us radio sets and mobile phone cards so we could participate in the show and give our points of view. But we haven’t produced any butter this year.

Mariam Koné: Why not? Is it because you hadn’t understood all the steps of the manufacturing?

Mah Diarra: We understood them, but we had unpredictable weather … And consequently, the shea trees did not produce any fruit last year.

Mariam Koné: I noticed that the shea trees are going to bear fruit this year. This means that you’re going to produce shea butter.

Mah Diarra: Especially Tulu ngana, if we manage to find materials such as aluminum basins, rubber barrels and aluminum pots, to help us with processing.

Mariam Koné: Thank you for welcoming us so warmly, and especially for your kind attention.

The host: After Ballan, Mariam takes us to Dien, five kilometres from Fana.

Mariam Koné: (To the radio audience) I’m now in Dien, near the road linking Fana to Djoïla. My journey has just crossed that of women coming from a courtesy visit to the president of the Dien’s women’s association. They happily welcome me! (To the women) Good evening, ladies.

Women: Good evening!

Mariam Koné: I’d like to visit with you for a few minutes.

Women: There’s no problem. But be quick because it’s time to go make dinner.

Mariam Koné: Okay!

(To the radio listeners) I was received by the women’s village association’s president, Mrs. Nadjé Mariko. The yard was clean and surrounded by a wall on two sides. I could see and hear small animals and farm birds. I spoke with one of the women in the group.
(To Sitan Fomba) I am Mariam Koné. I heard that women from Dien know how to produce improved shea butter. Is it true?

Sitan Fomba: Yes!

Mariam Koné: OK, Madam. Please introduce yourself to our listeners.

Sitan Fomba: My name is Sitan Fomba, and I’m the deputy president of Dien’s women’s association. Yes, we learned how to produce improved shea butter or Tulu ngana thanks to Radio Fanaka’s AFRRI project.

Mariam Koné: How did the AFRRI Mali project help you make Tulu ngana?

Sitan Fomba: The programs broadcast by Radio Fanaka informed us about different new approaches to ensure food security. The main concern of women’s groups and associations in the village was to take better advantage of shea butter. But we haven’t produced any butter this year.

Mariam Koné: Why not?

Sitan Fomba: The shea trees produced no nuts this year.

Mariam Koné: Are there other obstacles that prevent you from producing Tulu ngana?

Sitan Fomba: We lack materials such as aluminum pots, non-synthetic bags and other tools.

Mariam Koné: Dear listeners, this interview from Dien brings our show to an end.

Signature tune up for five seconds, then fade and hold under host

Host: This report by Mariam Koné is a lively account of AFRRI activities in Mali, in the Fana region. The Participatory Radio Campaign changed the lives of rural women in the Fana region.  This was thanks to advice given through the show and the different demonstration sessions carried out by female extension workers. Thus, women from the Fana region in Mali made improved shea butter manufacturing a for-profit activity. Indeed, in Wolodo village, the bad smell and other inconveniences of shea butter are now only a bad memory.

On this note, we hope you’ll join us again for another show. Thanks kindly for being with us, and enjoy the rest of the programmes on our radio station! Bye!

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