Shea Producers Go Digital in Southern Burkina Faso
May 03 2012, Burkina Faso [BF], Agriculture, eBusiness, Economic Development, Gender
Women shea producers in Leo, some 164 km south of Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, and surrounding areas, have automatised their production and now also embrace digital media as part of their communication strategy. The shea producers not only use media for internal information flow but also for marketing purposes. This move towards digital media is made inescapable both by the need to manage and share field information in real time, but also to position the women’s organisation online.
Mechanised shea production
Nununa, the umbrella organisation grouping different women’s associations of shea and sesame producers, is completing new buildings for its shea transformation chain. Brand new, locally manufactured machines are already installed, and have already produced shea butter.
“We have temporarily stopped production in order to complete the construction”, says Abou Dradin Tagnan, Nununa’s general manager. He adds that the construction process should resume before the upcoming shea collection season starting in June. With 4596 members and 35 staff members, Nununa’s transformation unit produced 2 metric tons of butter a day before the suspension. “The aim is to reach 900 tons a year”, Tagnan says.
Managing success with information and communication technologies
With this semi industrialised process and considerable quantities of shea butter and sesame oil resulting from it, it has become almost unthinkable to manage the entire process manually. With the financial and operational support of IICD and ICCO, who cooperate in the Connect for Change (C4C), consortium together with four other development organisations based in the Netherlands (Edukans, Cordaid, Akvo and Text to Change), Nununa has embraced new information and communication technologies.
The aim is to facilitate the information flow both internally and externally and, by doing that, to boost production, transformation and sales in order to ultimately increase rural women’s income. Internally, Tagnan explains, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is expected to play a critical role in helping keep track, in real time, of the levels of stock, of finished products, of pending orders, and ensuring smooth communication. At the same time, ICT are going to play a vital role in positioning Nununa on the international shea and sesame market.
“A potential French client is testing our sesame oil. We expect more requests when we go online”, says Tagnan.
One crucial step is getting a web portal up and running and, according to Nununa’s IT officer and webmaster, Sawadogo Boukary, the process is in the final stage.
“Our site will be on ether later this month, says Boukary, proudly. He has already configured the synology server meant to host the site and other network activities.
“The site has three parts: a webshop, general information [about Nununa] and our achievements”, says Tagnan. According to him, during the first phase local and international clients will only be able to place orders online. After discussions with local banks, a online payment system is expected to follow.
Saving time and fuel
From the paved express way between Ouagadougou and Leo, one sees a high red-and-white antenna planted in the middle of building serving as Nununa offices and harbouring stocks and transformation units.
“Our plan is to exchange information by using a wireless connection”, Tagnan adds. He stresses that once the VSAT (satellite internet connection) is up and running later this month, village-based field agents will save both time and [motorbikes’] fuel, as they will send and receive information using computers connected to the wireless antenna.
This article is based on a field visit at Nununa in Leo, Burkina Faso on 12 April 2012.