AAK and Mars have joined forces with several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and an impact investment fund to create a public-private partnership that will improve the livelihoods of women working in Ghana's shea supply chain. 

Running until 2030, the Women in Shea (WISH) initiative aims to reach 13,000 women shea collectors from more than 150 communities in northern Ghana.

Stakeholders in the WISH initiative aim to bring economic and social benefits to the women in the program and promote environmental improvements for the shea tree parklands while meeting the growing market demand for high-quality shea kernels.

Project goals will be achieved through expanding the women's access to savings and financial credits, improving natural resource management techniques, and reducing the time burden and labor intensity of the work associated with shea kernel collection and processing. Each of these areas will enable the women in impacted communities to gain more from the kernels they collect. In the long term, the project will also impact the quantity and quality of shea kernels, and the overall sustainability of the shea supply chain. 

AAK supplies Mars with cocoa butter equivalents based on shea butter for chocolate and confectionery applications. The companies have committed to purchasing the shea kernels produced within the WISH initiative for its decade-long duration. 

The project builds on AAK's existing direct sourcing program, Kolo Nafaso, through which the company sources shea kernels directly from women smallholder farmers in West Africa, enabling them to increase their income sustainably. It is also closely aligned with AAK's corporate purpose - Making Better Happen.

"Mars and AAK share common business values, including a long-term commitment to sustainability,” said Luis Parra, global business director for chocolate and confectionery fats, AAK. “The WISH initiative will deliver economic and social benefits to the women in the project and promote environmental improvements for the shea tree parklands. It will also provide sustainable shea kernels that AAK will transform into high-quality products for Mars to use in its chocolate and confectionery brands. The WISH initiative is a true collaboration effort and we are thrilled to be involved."

The WISH program’s public and private partners include:

  • AAK specializes in plant-based oils. Through its unique co-development approach, the company solves customer-specific needs across many industries: chocolate and confectionery, bakery, dairy, plant-based foods, special nutrition, foodservice and personal care.
  • Mars Incorporated is a global leader in the production of confectionery, food and pet care products, and investor partner in the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F).
  • The US Agency for International Development (USAID) leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people progress beyond assistance.
  • The Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F) is an impact investment fund launched in 2015 together with Mars and Danone, and later joined by Firmenich and Veolia, designed to transform the supply chains of pioneering brands while improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
  • CARE International is the lead implementing partner for the WISH initiative and has been operating in Ghana since 1994. Currently, it works with more than 40 partner organizations to promote integrated program approaches to the fight against extreme poverty and social injustice.
  • Presbyterian Agricultural Services (PAS) is a Ghanaian not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization with over 50 years' experience of delivering agriculture advisory services to farmer organizations. More than 20,000 women working in the shea value chain have benefited from PAS interventions.