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Better Butter, Better Business

Shea trees are indigenous to parts of Africa and can be found in high concentration in Northeast Uganda, often on land purchased by farmers for farming, not for the Shea trees. This often leads to the cutting down and burning of the trees for charcoal. But they produce a nut that can be pressed into a high-value oil called Shea butter, and one woman in Northern Uganda is starting to show local community members the value in Shea trees.

Margaret has been part of the Partners Worldwide network as a business client and mover and shaker in her community for several years. She owns her own business, Blessed Organic Release, making different products, buying the materials she needs locally, and selling her final products on her own in Uganda. And one of those products is Shea butter.

SheaTree 2 copyMargaret teaches local farmers how to harvest the shea fruit, dry the pits, and prepare them for pressing—this is helping people see the value in Shea trees, instead of burning them. As part of empowering the community, she also helps these farmers set up bank accounts to manage their increased income. Financial literacy is part of her work to create stronger families and communities.

While Margaret was doing all of this, a food researcher, 2 teachers, retired pastor, and financial expert came together at Clearview Church near Toronto, Ontario to form a Business Affiliate (BA) team through Partners Worldwide, known as the Clearview Group—Jan & Helena Ouwehand, Peter & Julie Oussoren, Tim & Bernice, and Henry & Jan Wildeboer. They knew they wanted to get connected with Partners Worldwide’s work, but they were still searching for where the Lord was calling them.

Knowing about Margaret’s business and desire to grow, John DenBok, who was head of Partners Worldwide Canada at the time, encouraged the Clearview Group to partner with Margaret through the Partners Worldwide network. He encouraged the group to take the leap of faith in partnering with Margaret and trust in God to guide the relationship.

At the beginning of this partnership, the team quickly realized that Margaret was very business savvy at the grassroots level, and what she really could benefit from was a larger market for sales. So, the team decided to set up a corporation called Moyaa Shea Product, Ltd, a distribution company through which Margaret could sell her Shea products in Canada. They created labels, jars, and promotional material to increase sales in this new market for Margaret.

During the partnership, Margaret was also able to visit the American Shea Butter Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, where they tested her product several times and trained her in Shea butter production. After the training, she bought new equipment to produce a higher quality Shea butter (grade A) on a consistent basis and her efforts were recognized with an award from the Shea Butter Institute for improved production.

BA team leader Peter Oussoren says, “We are so proud of Margaret and her accomplishments in growing her business. This story is an exciting one from the source all the way to the retail shelf, and it has a very positive environmental impact. Thanks to Partner’s Worldwide, we were able to join Margaret in her business and mission. We took a leap of faith to join this partnership, and God was faithful.”

Over 2 months ago, Moyaa Shea Product, Ltd was sold to Debbie vanGrieken of Global H.E.A.R.T.S who will bring an even larger market to Margaret. An increase in market means greater sales, which allows Margaret to produce more Shea butter and purchase more Shea nuts from farmers in Northern Uganda.  This means higher incomes and a positive environmental impact, as the Shea trees will remains standing. And this all comes together to support a just supply chain as its direct trade supports the flourishing of communities, both economically and environmentally.