Accra, GHANA – On Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Shea Alliance (GSA), launched the first-ever virtual Global Shea Alliance International Shea Conference.

Spearheaded by GSA, the three-day conference, themed “Building the Industry of the Next Decade,” celebrated GSA’s 10th anniversary and highlighted the importance of international partnerships toward achieving a more sustainable shea industry.

U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan addressed hundreds of shea industry stakeholders and announced additional funding support to GSA’s Sustainable Shea Initiative (SSI) project across West Africa.

“I’m happy to announce that USAID has just approved an extension to the GSA Sustainable Shea Initiative project. This extension was based on increased private sector interest in the program and USAID’s strategic objective to support private investment, build the capacity of shea producers, and promote increased regional and global trade. We are thrilled to provide additional funding to match private funding to support the shea industry’s continued development for the next three years.” Ambassador Sullivan said.

She also reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to addressing climate change, and the need to preserve the shea ecosystem. “Indeed, President Biden announced on his first day in office that the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We have done so and have increased our climate ambitions in the run-up to COP 26 in Glasgow in November,” Ambassador Sullivan noted. Ambassador Sullivan commended the industry’s leading role in stopping shea parkland destruction through the Action for Shea Parklands – GSA’s initiative aimed at growing 10 million trees and preserving four million hectares of shea parklands throughout West Africa.

Over the past decade, GSA has helped increase the demand for shea in food and cosmetics. GSA’s successful milestones include improved livelihoods of more than 400,000 West African women and their communities, and the construction of over 300 warehouses, that are now in the hands of women’s cooperatives throughout West Africa. The conference also addressed doing business in the COVID-19 era as well as new shea industry regulations.

In a public-private partnership involving USAID, GSA, and the private sector, the Sustainable Shea Initiative has raised 100,000 shea tree seedlings and planted 8,000 shea trees in the region. Since 2011, SSI, a USAID-funded activity, has mobilized stakeholders globally to take action on pressing issues regarding shea sustainability, quality practices, and market expansion. The SSI is an $18 million, five-year program that promotes the sustainable expansion of the shea industry in Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo, as well as increases the incomes of hundreds of thousands of rural women. In Ghana, 20,000 trees will be planted across five northern regions this year alone. To learn more about the Global Shea Alliance International Shea Conference, visitwww.globalshea.com.

About Global Shea Alliance:The Global Shea Alliance is a non-profit industry association with 560 members from 35 countries including women’s groups, brands and retailers, suppliers, and NGOs. Through public-private partnership, the GSA promotes industry sustainability, quality practices and standards, and demand for shea in food and cosmetics.

About USAID/West Africa: The USAID/West Africa mission goal is to promote social and economic well-being in the region. Spanning 21 countries, USAID/West Africa designs and implements programs with West African partners to strengthen systems of non-violent conflict management, support economic growth, and expand quality health services. For more information, visithttps://www.usaid.gov/west-africa-regional