The women of rural Burkina Faso are not short on ideas for new business. Many entrepreneurs in the communities where Tree Aid work have been finding innovative ways to harvest products from local forests, ensuring a regular source of income for their families.
However, living in the drylands of Africa brings a unique set of difficulties for women. Poverty is a harsh reality for those living at the sharp edge of the climate crisis, and many women are unable to afford the tools and training they need to get the most from their ideas. This can make running a business a tiring and labour-intensive task.
When you’re an entrepreneur facing huge financial and environmental challenges, your margins are incredibly tight. The risk of failed harvests is high and you need to be access the best price for your product. We want to ensure that women in the Sahel have access to the tools and resources needed to run their tree product businesses sustainably for them, as well as for the planet.
That’s why our projects cover every step of a tree product’s journey. Alongside training in tree care and forest restoration, we distribute machinery to save time and energy on product processing (like turning nuts and seeds into butter and oil). We also provide training on business planning and the marketing and storage of products.
These business-focused elements form a ‘roots to market’ approach. Together, they can help women sell products with greater value, to get a fair price at market for the products they have grown.
Support from people like you enables us to fund training and support for entrepreneurs, a bit like a business school. This can really help local businesses to take off, by investing in their creativity and leadership.
What training do we offer for entrepreneurs?
As a tree growing charity, we do so much more than simply plant trees and walk away. We work to strengthen existing business groups and establish new ones, formed of entrepreneurs running similar tree-product businesses. These groups offer local women a space to come together to talk, learn and act collectively on business.
Tree Aid work alongside these entrepreneurs, finding out how best we can offer our support. Then, our local staff can arrange and provide tailored organisational and technical support for all aspects of their business, based on knowledge of the region, and local markets.
Marie Ouedraogo is one entrepreneur whose business group Tree Aid have been working supporting. We met her in Burkina Faso as part of our Growing Food & Incomes project in 2018. Marie told us that because “the area is rich in forest species such as balanites and neem trees,” women in her community had been experimenting to find methods of oil extraction from the seeds. However, they had “found it difficult to find someone who could train us in the production of the oils.” Without specific tools and training, it was a time-consuming and labour intensive task:
“The work was very hard… the women’s fingers were swollen for at least a week and they couldn’t even work anymore because of the pain.” – Marie Ouedraogo
After hearing about the difficulties they had been encountering, and securing some funding for the project, we were able to support Marie’s group with the tools and training they hadn’t previously had access to.
“Tree Aid delivered an oil press to us. It only needs two people to operate. By the end of a day, we produce an average of 14.4 litres of oil per day. Without the press, we only produced an average of 8 litres per day, and needed at least five people.”
Tree Aid are proud of the long-term impact that our ‘seed to sale’ approach has had so far. From an investment of around £598,000 in equipment, seeds and tree seedlings, there are now almost 200 village tree enterprise groups working together to earn an income on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
The support these groups have received brings long-term benefits. Not only do people have the trees, tools and training to run sustainable businesses, the communities are now sharing their knowledge with friends, family, and other communities too!
"I now have oil production skills and can even train other women in producing neem and balanites oil” - Marie Ouedraogo