French naturals company L’Occitane has teamed up with USAID, RONGEAD Etc Terra, and the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) in a partnership that will see them empower women shea collectors and protect parklands in Burkina Faso.

According to the company, L’Occitane and its partners will work over three years to build 10 warehouses, train 8,500 women in business development environmentally-friendly shea processing and parkland management, as well as plant 45,000 new shea seedlings in six rural communities of Burkina Faso.

The partnership and actions are hoped to maximise value for women shea collectors in the L’Occitane supply chain, with the company having worked in the area since 1980. With women relying on shea as a source of income in the area, the agreement aims to encourage ‘women collectors and processors organize into cooperatives, obtain equipment and training, improve the financial benefit from the sale of their products, and protect the shea resource for their livelihoods.’

Speaking in a statement, USAID/West Africa Mission Director Alex Deprez said, “We know well the benefits of increased trade for rural communities across Africa. GSA is pioneering efforts to grow markets and improve the livelihoods of rural women and their families that stand at the base of the shea value chain. We are proud to partner in these activities.”

Commenting on how the actions will safeguard the shea resource and biodiversity, GSA President Badie Marico said, “Strong and profitable women groups constitute the root of the commercial and environmental sustainability of the shea industry.”