Shea nut pickers have complained of the dangerous conditions and processes they pass through daily before picking the nut and appealed to the government and civil society and NGOs to assist them with protective kits.
They said they were often bitten by snakes because they use their bare hands and sometimes bare feet to comb the bush in search of the nut.
Madam Abdulai Zuwera of Tungteiya Shea Butter Extraction Women Association of Gushiegu said this on behalf of the pickers in Tamale on Thursday during a forum.
The forum was organized by a network of Send Ghana, SNV and Oxfam, NGOs under the theme; “Shea; An economic resource for poverty reduction, a multi-stakeholders’ approach.”
Madam Zuwera said an NGO had assisted some nut pickers with tricycles, hand gloves and Wellington boots and had improved the business tremendously saying if such assistance is extended to others, it would reduce the risks.
“It is out of the nut that we make our daily living and support our children in schools and if the business is left to collapse, where will our future be?”
Mr. Zan Akologo, the Country Director of Send-Ghana, appealed to the government to take the opportunity of the forum to make a provision for shea in 2011 year’s budget.
He said the opportunities in the shea sector had not been fully utilized and called for governments’ assistance in that direction.
He said the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) should target the shea as a major tool to reduce poverty in the north.
Dr Joshua Yidana, Head of the Horticultural Department of the University for Development Studies (UDS) who has experimented with the shea tree through grafting, has proved that the shea tree can now bear fruits in a gestation period of between three to six years.
He said the research is a breakthrough and has reduced the gestation period of the crop from 10-15 years to between three to six years.
Dr Yidana said the first ever grafting of the shea nut was successful in 2008 and that he is studying the grafting method at Zoonaaliyi near Nyakpala where a bout 1,200 grafted plants covering about a hectare of land is being observed.
He expressed disappointment about the government’s inability to fund research work.