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Independent women in southern Chad
Concern Worldwide works in southern Chad helping communities become more self-sufficient.
Here Concern’s programme support officer in Chad, Francesca Reinhardt, explains how the abundance of shea nuts in southern Chad is helping women there earn a living and become more independent.
Shea nuts are indigenous to southern Chad, and have been traditionally pressed into a black oil to add to foods.
With its heavy soils and massive trees, the area of Goré in southern Chad looks like it should be rich and fertile, but the struggling villages tell a different story. Goré now hosts 35,000 refugees [from Central African Republic] and the soil is exhausted. The harvest feeds most families for just seven months of the year. After that, they are reduced to foraging, debt, and hunger. Raw materials are scarce, and few goods are produced locally.
Processing the Shea nuts into a white butter gives it all kinds of household and commercial applications, opening up new income streams for local women. This is southern Chad’s ‘white gold’.
Ask the women in Goré what they want and they’ll tell you simply that they want their own source of income: ‘We have to spend so much on so many things, why not make something we can keep ourselves?’ says Lydie Nadjilem, a member of Mekasna. Mekasna is Goré’s biggest shea butter collective, and it also wants to be the richest. ‘We are looking at land to plant an orchard; this would make it faster to collect the shea nuts. So far, we have saved 50,000 Cefa [about 100 USD]. That’s already a third of the way there’, says Mekasna’s President, Maris Mokodji.