Contribution of “Women’s Gold” to West African Livelihoods: The Case of Shea ( Vitellaria paradoxa ) in Burkina Faso. This paper (i) quantifies the contribution that Vitellaria paradoxa makes to the total income of rural households belonging to different economic groups in two areas of Burkina Faso; (ii) quantifies the involvement of women in shea nuts and fruits collection and processing; and (iii) empirically verifies the “gap filling” function of shea products in Burkina Faso by quantifying the commercialization and subsistence use of shea fruits, nuts, and butter between agricultural seasons. Based on data collected from structured household surveys used on a quarterly basis during a one-year period on 536 households, we demonstrate that the reliance on shea is generally high in the sampled populations, and is at its highest for the poorest households, for which it contributes 12 % of total household income. Moreover, shea nut collection and processing was found to provide a valuable source of cash income to female household members who otherwise have very few income possibilities. Finally, due to its ecology, shea fills in an income gap during a period where human activities are at their highest while income is at its lowest. Although shea is crucial for poor people’s livelihoods and for the generation of income for women, its harvesting and processing are time-consuming activities that generate low returns per unit of labor. We argue that shea collection and processing should therefore not be considered as a remedy to poverty but instead as a way for households to diversify their livelihood strategy and decrease their vulnerability to food insecurity and climate variability.
Economic Botany – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 1, 2012