A newly held study gives biodiversity critical of Shea production in Africa

According to a recent study led by scientists from Trinity College Dublin, Shea yield is likely to benefit varieties of shrubs and trees in parkland habitats in West Africa. Such researches have significant implications to manage crops that are usually harvested and sold by women in rural areas, and that helps for the education of children financially.

Shea trees (Vitellaria paradoxa) grow up in parkland ecosystems, forest, dryland savanna across approximate 1 million km2 within north-western Uganda and western Senegal. Near the ending of a dry season, this agroforestry crop provides fruit that is known as Shea nut. Besides, processing into a nutritious butter to sustain approx 80 million people, Shea is the core of income through the local and global trade.

Not only for humans, but Shea also yields benefits biodiversity. The trees help bees moving pollen between flowers, so it can provide fruit. But a newly held research, recently published in the ‘Applied Ecology’ (a journal), found that due to less pollination in the areas with low shrub diversity and tree, the production of fruit was severely limited. On the contrary, in the higher-diversity areas, more honeybees were seen. In addition, other bees visit flowers in a great number and boost pollination service. Similar to bees, Shea trees benefit for the birds to survive, live and breeding as well.

The Burkinabe partner Naturama and BirdLife International are already working to modify the way Shea resources manage the landscape and promote a farmer-led approach constructed on low cost and simple land management projects to increase biodiversity on-farm. It involves natural regeneration and native trees and shrubs planting for the benefits of people insects, livestock and birds; replacing the agrochemicals with locally created compost and mulch; and initiating apiculture for pollination and income or food.

For Parkland Management that was accepted by the Global Shea Alliance, The international team has made biodiversity guidelines. Along with the local partners, they are educating, enhancing awareness about the importance of pollinators. Besides, they are undertaking training and capacity building in schools all over the region with Burkinabe communities.

The project manager, Elaine Marshall said – “Our work supports the theory that when we improve plant diversity on farms we see an increase in pollinators and shea yield. We believe a landscape approach which protects these ecosystem goods and services also reduces the vulnerability of human populations across the shea belt. This work demonstrates the potential for ecosystem restoration to deliver healthier and more resilient stocks of natural capital, enhanced pollination services and improved capacity for adapting to the impacts of climate change. Restoring ‘nature’ should be considered as a core component of successful development aid strategy.”

Professor Juliet Vickery of RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science, said – “Retaining shrubs and trees can have multiple other benefits. It can help combat desertification in an area extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change and provide vital habitat for many of Europe’s summer migrant birds that winter or stop over in the Shea zone on their way to and from sub-Saharan Africa.”

We, African Fair Trade Society, concur with them on this and always support the community and women effort to deliver Shea butter across the word. We are helping women more to start business. And by purchasing our products, our customers help us in this matter.