NIGERIA. Niger State: Shea butter is an oil extracted from shea butter nuts. Basically, shea butter is used for treating various skin infections. Shea butter is a key trade commodity for the African economy. However, due to lack of equipment, government support and negligence, it is becoming for the shea butter industry to thrive.
Shea butter is a skin food that is made out of shea fruit (Karite). It is ivory in color when raw and commonly dyed yellow with borututu root or palm oil. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. It contains vitamin A, E and F. It is rich in fatty acids and nutrients which is required for collagen production.
The Shea production in Nigeria can be a game-changer for the country’s economy. Nigeria can earn up to 10 million dollars annually if it will focus and invest in the process of exporting the natural oil.
Shea Butter trees production
Shea butter is predominantly found in rural areas. It is processed by the rural dwellers of the country. Shea butter has multiple functions. Due to its numerous benefits, some locals use it as a source of vegetable oil and soap.
Producing shea butter requires a lot of refining and processing.
In the local government areas of Niger State, local women work in the shea butter industry for their livelihood.
Making a living through the production of shea butter in local form without the availability of adequate equipment is a major challenge. The shea butter economy is seen as a ‘woman’s affair’ which may explain why it is undeveloped.
Speaking to Rukoto Television in Lavun local government area, the local producers lamented on how hectic the process is while processing shea butter.
“We have to undergo a local way of producing which has to do with selecting, cooking it on fire, washing and grinding. After the kernel is removed from the seed, it is ground into a powder and boiled in water. The butter then rises to the top of the water and becomes solid.”
“This process would have been easy and faster with the provision of modern equipment,” they added.
Importance of Shea Butter
Shea butter is a potent moisturizer that works to soften and soothe the skin. Apart from cosmetic use, shea butter is capable of reducing skin swelling and it also helps in treating skin diseases like eczema, reducing skin rashes, among other things.
Shea butter promotes hair growth, sunburn, wrinkles, clear dandruff, and heals chapped lips. In addition to its moisturizing properties, shea butter may also be able to improve the appearance of aging skin.
The importance of shea butter to the Nigerian economy
Nigeria is responsible for producing 50% of Shea nut globally. The country’s unemployment rate is increasing drastically. Therefore, it is important for the Nigerian government to invest in the shea butter production as it can create employment for the country’s youth.
Government’s investment in the industry could be an added advantage to the growth of the country’s GDP.
In 2017, the Niger state government agreed to invest in the booming industry but unfortunately thing didn’t work out.
Challenges of shea butter processing
The problem of shea butter processing starts with harvesting which is usually collected after dropping from the tree to the ground. Other problems include postharvest storage because of lack of facilities for immediate parboiling after harvest.
Lack of modern facilities available to the local producers has posed many challenges to the success of achieving largely in the sector.
In a nut shell, shea butter is a global multi-million dollar industry. Thus, it is important for the government and the non-government organizations to invest in it.