shea butter mali production

In December 2014, the West African StovePlus  team visited a Shea butter production area in Dioïla, a women’s cooperative in the South of Bamako.

Surrounded by all her colleagues, Marikou Kadidia Samaré explains the introduction of cleaner and more efficient stoves in their production process:

“We did the test with the three stone fire over there, we weighed the wood, poured 10 buckets of water in the pot, put it on the 3 stone and started the fire. Your colleague timed how long it would take for the water to boil. Then, we did the same process with an improved cookstove (the SEWA). We saw that only 2 branches were enough to heat the same quantity of water that we put on the 3-stone fire. It makes our work easier and costs less. Here, the wood costs 5 500 FCFA, one tonne can cost more than 7 500 but with the improved cookstove you only need to buy 2 500 FCFA of wood.”

She continues by explaining more about fuel collection:

“From December, the trees bear flowers and fruit. In June, we begin to collect the fruit until September.

“You shouldn’t pick up ripe fruit on trees, but wait until they fall on the ground.

After this advice, she began to describe their modernized process:

“Early in the morning, they go into the bush and collect nuts. Then, they carry the fruit until the place where they begin pulping, and then washing the nuts. To do so, you pour your kernels in a big pot on the cookstove, in warm water. You let it boil for 30 minutes. Then you take one off, you crack the nut (she bangs the nut on the ground), you check if there is sap or not. When there is no more of that white juice, it’s ready. You take off the nuts from the water and you spread them on that plastic tarp and let them dry for 3 days.”

“Then, you shell the nuts on a clean surface. Once the nuts are rid of their shells, you expose them to the sun one more time (she shows the nuts spread under the sun).”

“After the nuts are dried, if you have a big amount of kernels, you stock them in a bag, this is the starting point.”

“And the work begins… You clean your kernels to take off the black residue such as we are doing it at the moment. Then, you sort the nuts and throw the darkened ones away.”

“You use the machine to grind and press the kernels and you get your butter.”

“But there is a second process. It’s the manual churning, some women do it manually, here we have the manual press and the electric one.”

“This process that I just described is our work here.”

What’s different now?

“It increases our production because we can save time. The three stone fire is slower and even more when the wind picks up for example, the fire is less efficient and nearly dies out. But with the new device, you just have to put the nuts in the pot, and you can begin to work without worrying about the fire.

“It’s faster and more than before. With the 3 stone fire, the cleaning lasts ten days for one tonne but with the improved cookstove, it lasts only 2 days, and that’s it! That permits us to reduce our expenses on firewood.

“It has changed a lot, and women don’t get tired like before. For sure, women before this were getting tired quickly because of the very hard work.

“Thanks to these new devices, we save time, and after finishing the butter, we can produce soap. The time we save is useful, that way. Stamp the soap, package them, etc. Working on this fire is easy and fast.”

And she concludes:

“With the fire and the smoke that we breathe in, we don’t know what is happening in our lungs.”

From West Africa to South Asia, meet people, all involved in the cookstove sector.

The portraits’ series:

Shea butter, an age-old tradition