Testimony

Quick facts:
Number of women: 15,000 *
Number of women’s groups: 716*
Nut collection areas: Gushegu, Savelugu, Karaga, Nanumba North, West Mamprusi, Bole, Sawla South and North,Tuna East and West, Bolgatanga.
Spoken dialects: Dagbani, Komkomba, Manpurli, Dagaari, Wale, Frafra etc
Financing of women Groups: two local microfinance institutions, Grameen Ghana and Maata-N-Tudu
* As per September, 2014
Can you use this knowledge for your other activities like farming?

Damata: If I have four acres of farmland, and I know that if I use this 4 acres money to plough, I can’t buy fertilizer. I have to cut it into two, so that I plough two acres and use the money from the other two acres to buy fertilizer for it, so that I get more from it than if I would plough the whole four acres without using fertilizer.
Fati Alassa: Before I joined the project, I found it difficult to do some things because of money, some basic needs. But now I can do some things. For example, I have just received a loan from them. I also process more butter now. In the past I did two, but now I am doing up to six. I could process up to ten bags. You can cover some basic needs now, like school fees for my children and school money.
Jamila: We get things easier. We normally used local things to fry it and parboil it. Now, we have some stoves, and roasters also help us. In the past, we used the local ones, but they disturbed our ears.
Moubaba: Now I can afford school fees and school uniforms for my children. At that time none of my children reached up to the stage of senior high [for which you have to pay]. Now one of my children is in senior high. So I use the money to pay the school fees. For the first year of senior high I pay GHC 200 something.
Ayi: It helped us. When we processed the shea butter it’s different from those who do not go through the training. Ours is just good quality if you just look at it. Even the smell is good.
Azaratu: If I process the nuts, the way PF teaches us the buyers hurry to buy.
Zenabu: I used to work in the field just during the rainy season so I had no money during the dry season. Last year, when Starshea came, I started to sell nuts. Then, I received the training for processing butter so I began to process butter.
Azara: Before Starshea arrived I wasn’t in the shea business. Actually, I had no work no source of income and no money for the kids. Now, I am proud to be able to pay for the school fees.

What are the advantages of working in organized groups?

Abiba: There are plenty. If somebody is sick, we know that our fellow is sick, because we work together. The group helps us to do things fast. If I have one bag of nuts to process to butter, the group will come and help me, so it’s easier for me. So, there are a lot of things.
Areshetu: We learn from each other. When I collect my own, but the one of another woman is better quality, then I will learn it from her. Next time I will also do it that way.
Azara: When we come together and do something, we will capture some things. When we all come together we all put our own together and do something meaningful. A lot of things have changed. As a group we can work fast. We won’t become tired. That time, the way I worked, I see the changes. When I had to process one bag I became tired. Sometimes, I also asked my children who should go to school to help me. Now, with the help of the group, it is easier.
Baba Amida: When I have work and I invite any of the other members, she can come and help me to do some work. If not because of the group, how could I call her and ask her to help me?
Damata: For a group, we will organize ourselves so that everybody comes together. If there is a problem then we will plan how to solve the problem.
Fatima: I have learned from the group work: wisdom and knowledge.
Jamila: Because we come together and work – that helps me. We do faster because we are in group.
Moubaba: Working together – If you don’t come out today, maybe you are sick, and they didn’t see you. They will come and ask why you didn’t come out today. If we wouldn’t work in groups who would say “let’s go and see this person”?

How does price information PlaNet Finance and StarShea provide help?

Azara: For example, in the past when we were asking the traders they were lying to us. Now, if I want to sell and the person lies to me I can decide to say “I am having the market in my hand because I know the prices of Bolga, and I know the prices of Tamale. So it is not possible for you to cheat me. So Tamale is GHC 50, so you bring 45, you also pay the lorry fare and other things from the 45”. So it helps them when they want to sell.
Baba Amida: It is important, because when we receive the message we know the prices. If somebody comes to cheat me, I will know. When the message reaches me, I will gather all group members and tell them.
Fatima: We just get to know the prices, but we don’t go there to sell. If someone wants to cheat us now, we know the prices.

In what ways has the PlaNet Finance and StarShea project changed something for you?

Abiba: I have got a lot of things. For example, butter: There are other groups that are not a member of the project. The butter that they produce is different, because my own butter will be of higher quality than theirs. I get a lot of things out of the project; I know that I can use that one for my own dream to manage my shea business. That one will guide me, and I know that if I buy goods for my children, I can help them. I use all these things to help them.
Areshetu: They taught us how to process shea nuts. They told us how to produce good quality butter. After that they also taught us how to use the scale. When we put the calabash on a scale, they taught us how to read it. When there was no scale we just brought it and just decided how to sell it.
Areshetu: My living conditions have changed. As you can see, I bought a sewing machine for my children.
Ayi: I cannot say that it didn’t have any impact on me. It is just the beginning. And the beginning of everything is like that. Yes, it has. Otherwise I would be sitting idly. When they people say they want then I do it. I get money and then give to my school children. I have also learned about the scale. This is important for me because if somebody wants to tell me that the price of a calabash is this. I can tell the fellow that on the scale it is this level, this is the price for the calabash. This means that the person can’t cheat.
Azara (widow): It has. Last year they asked school fees for one of my children. People just come and say they want the butter. So I process butter, get money and pay the school fees. The unity alone is something. Working in groups brings about unity. Apart from unity I have learned how to process good butter. And then, knowing the price of the butter is another benefit. My life is different from the life of those women, because the fellow doesn’t belong to this group. As a member of the PF project, I know that when a problem comes at least I can deal with it. But the one who doesn’t belong to the group – even if she has a problem and she is close to me, then she can ask me for help. There is a difference. Firstly, PF taught us how to make quality nuts and quality butter. Secondly, they taught us kilo. Before, we were selling calabash or so. But PF taught us that we should find a scale and weigh our butter so that we know the quantity. This one is also very important.
Azeru Abukari: When I joined PF, it has changed in terms of profit. There was a time when we needed something but I couldn’t afford. When PF started buying the butter I now get little money from it to cater for some basic needs. (My problem is that they don’t buy regularly, but it has changed things for me.)
Baba Amida: Before, I found it difficult to pay school fees for my children and take care of them. Now I find it easier. Also, when, for instance, my junior sister comes to me and tells me that she wants to go to school and faces money problems, and then I can assist her to go school.
Damata: I get a lot of things from it because I get knowledge on how to manage my business and how to process good quality butter. They teach us that we should remove the crushing nuts, the ones germinated – I should remove all. If I remove all, I’ll get good butter. If I don’t remove all, I won’t get quality butter.
Damata: Knowledge on how to manage your business: I can say that if I have a quality something and there is not market, and I send my things to the market. If I have a quality product I know that I can sell fast.

What do you spend the money earned from selling shea buts and butter on?

Ayi: The things we are eating are more than the things we save. [Rahaman explains: This means they spend more money than they have.] When I get the money, I will use it for our basic needs: giving school money to my children, buying food for my family.
Azaratu: I spend it [income from shea] on the children. We have some organization, even if my husband is complaining about money I can help him.
Jamila: I use the money to help my school children to go to school. Also, the clothes that I wear, and it helped me cook.
Moubaba: I started with shea to get something for my family, to feed them.

What are the main problems?

Damata: We are having a lot of problems, because sometimes when there are few nuts and you don’t have money to buy – that is one of the problems. This means you go to the one that has money and the person might cheat you. If there is a buyer, he can help you. If I know that I can sell the three bags that I have today, I’ll get money tomorrow and I can go and buy another one. The small profit that I get then will help me buy more nuts. So the problem is the buyer and the money.

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