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Microfinance and ICT meet in Rural Areas, Ghana

Introducing Myself to the Community 

For last 3 years, I’ve been working for PlaNet Finance Advisory Services (PF AS), a French non-profit organisation whose mission is to alleviate poverty through the support of the microfinance sector. I’ve worked both in Paris at the Head Office and in some of our foreign offices based in developing countries. In January 2009, I started a long-term mission in Ghana to implement and coordinate our microfinance programs located in rural areas. PFAS does not have an office in Ghana; however, we have been active in the country since 2006 on privately funded projects. In Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions, we provide capacity-building and access to funding to two microcredit associations, Grameen Ghana (GG) and Maata-N-Tudu (MTA).In Eastern Region, we work with a rural bank and the Water Research Institute to start-up fish farms and provide farmers with adapted financial services.  This year, we started a new program which is a joint-initiative with SAP aiming at developing a sustainable and inclusive shea value chain through microfinance, education and ICT.  

In this first blog writing, I wanted to share with you how this program was designed i.e. how a project idea became a comprehensive program acting on the integral shea value chain.  When SAP became a “Premium” partner of PlaNet Finance in February 2009, three areas were targeted for this partnership: technology development for field initiatives, development of software solutions for MFIs (Microfinance Institutions) and deployment of SAP technology for PlaNet Finance’s corporate initiatives.

Marie Pons and Shea Woman

The History of the Ghana Shea Project

For the field initiative on which I want to tell you more about in this blog, SAP chose Ghana. By making this choice, SAP wanted to build on the experience they developed while working with GTZ since 2008 on the transparency of the extractive industries.  Subsequently, the interest of SAP was to target a specific value chain which had a need for reinforcement and where there was value in using microfinance, education and ICT as tools to reinforce it. Maxwell, my Ghanaian colleague, discussed with our two partner microcredit associations to identify in which sector their clients had the greatest needs. GG and MTA explained that for the past 2 years, their clients processing shea butter had increasing difficulties selling their butter and that it had affected their ability to pay back their loan in a timely manner. We then decided, in full consultation with SAP, that it would be interesting to carry out a feasibility study to assess the possibility and relevancy of reinforcing the shea value chain in Ghana via microfinance, education and ICT.   

The Feasibility Study 

The feasibility study used desk study and field visits to collect the data needed to design the program.The desk study involved the review of literature on the shea sector in Ghana, West Africa, and shea 2009 conference presentations. The literature provided a good overview of the sector, the actors involved, the initiatives aiming to strengthen the sector, and key organizations and contacts working in the sector.In the field, we conducted interviews with two categories of people:  

  1. The actors in the shea value chain namely nut and butter processors (women groups of the MFIs Maata-N-Tudu and Grameen Ghana), small, medium and large scale traders (a small scale shea kernel buyer and the National Association of Shea Producers, Processors and Buyers), bulkers of shea kernels and butter (OLAM Ghana, Sekaf Ghana, SFC), in-country industrial processors of butter (GSF, TPC) and butter importers (Body Shop International, L’Oreal). 
  2. Organizations facilitating and supporting the operations of shea actors namely NGOs (ASNAPP -Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products-, TechnoServe, SNV -Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers Foundation of Netherlands Volunteers-); MFIs (Maata-N-Tudu and Grameen Ghana), government agencies (Cocoa Board, Ghana Export Promotion Council, MOFA -Ministry of Food and Agriculture-, UDS -University of Development Studies-); logistics and market information providers for export (NEA -Northern Empowerment Association-, Getrade, Esoko); suppliers of processing equipment (Bagyama enterprise) and the WATH shea team the actors of the chain and the facilitators supporting the operation of the shea actors. We also carried out field visits to on-going programs targeted at strengthening the shea chain. The team went to project sites to understudy their operations, challenges & lessons learned from their operations. The team visited the programs of the Body Shop International/NoGCAF/Tungteiya women groups, the Christian Mothers Association, the Sekaf sheabutter Village, the Widows Ministry and the SNV/TNS/SFC collaboration.
Some Feasiblity Study Results 

This study revealed that the actors of the chain faced some constraints to perform their role effectively and that microfinance, education and ICT could be effective tools to address the key limitations of the actors. We then developed a program with the most adequate activities to reinforce the sheavalue chain with microfinance, education and ICT namely:

  1. Organize and develop groups of shea nut & butter processors into cooperatives;
  2. Provide technical training in processing quality nuts & butter ;
  3. Facilitate the provision of non-financial services to shea cooperatives ;
  4. Use appropriate ICT tools to enhance the provision of critical services to members of the associations;
  5. Provide technical support to Maata-N-Tudu and Grameen Ghana Microfinance Institutions to refine and develop appropriate new credit products for clients in the shea sector;
  6. Effectively link-up the shea products with the market and strengthen the efficiency of the shea supply chain
  7. Reduce the destruction of shea trees for firewood  
A Shout Out and Thanks to the SAP Community Network 

I would like to take the opportunity to thank whole SAP Community for supporting our project through SCN contribution (Link to blog from Chip Rodgers  New SAP Community PlaNet Finance Program to Benefit Under-served Markets). This contribution enables us to deliver this project and to support the process chain of shea in Ghana from Shea women up to global markets. A first software tool is currently developed and being discussed with SDN participants; Community considered MFI interest rates too high and refused to contribute…... There will be further possibilities to actively participate for  SAP Community.  

I am interested to hear more from your experience either in Ghana or with Shea. Have you been to Ghana, maybe in Northern Regions? Are you using products that include Shea? Do you know companies which would be interested in buying quality traditionally handcrafted shea butter?

Shea Woman

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  • Thank you Marie for sharing live with us what you are doing in Africa (I know that it is you in the picture with the local woman). Our community is very eager for more details and its inspiring to see women entrepreneurs and women supporting women.
  • Wow, this is very exciting Marie!  Thank you for taking the time to start blogging about your experience in Ghana and providing the interesting background on this important project.  Our SAP Community Network team is all very excited about hearing more from you and learning about the work and opportunities there.  We’ll make sure your message is featured and getting out to the broader community as well.  Keep it coming and best of luck with your efforts in Ghana!