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Cultivating climate resilience: the Shea value chain

Working papers

Written by Catherine Simonet

The economy of Burkina Faso is growing but is seen alongside high levels of poverty and a heavy reliance on the climate-vulnerable agriculture sector.

This Working Paper outlines the importance of Shea in Burkina Faso both as a commodity for exporting and in providing subsistence for local communities. Although as a crop it is relatively resilience to a changing climate and is beneficial to the overall resilience of the ecosystem – through maintaining soil fertility and biodiversity of flora and fauna - the Shea tree is considered a vulnerable species, largely at risk from human practices.

Measures such as soil and water conservation and management are being adopted to improve Shea tree conservation and management. Research and development focused on domestication and isolation of more adaptable varieties of Shea are being turned into on-the-ground applications. Furthermore, Organic and fair trade certifications sought by international brands in the cosmetic industry contribute to establishing appropriate rules for the safeguard of the resource and biodiversity in general, and the minimisation of negative environmental impacts during the production phases.

In parallel to this, the Burkina Faso government have adopted a framework of national and international laws aimed at protecting Shea trees as well as developing initiatives that support local communities through agro-forestry and other projects.

Through a combination of value chain development, environmental management and measures targeting social groups, a comprehensive adaptation and resilience strategy is being developed in the Shea value chain in Burkina Faso, which include the communities who are engaged in the value chain.

The strategies do now, however, tackle potential obstacles to effective climate risk management in the agriculture and forestry sector, particularly there is a lack reliable climate and weather information necessary for planning in advance.

While Shea production has what it takes to improve the resilience of local communities involved in different stages of the value chain, and measures are in place to reduce the risk of human practices, diversification of the crops cultivated by farmers is essential to ensure climate resistance and resilience of the ecologic and socio-economic system as a whole in Burkina Faso. More broadly, efforts that promote economic diversification are imperative in the light of a national agenda for sustainable development.

Sara Venturini, Anna Haworth, Nadine Coudel, Elisa Jiménez Alonso and Catherine Simonet