The Hershey Co. and IOI Loders Croklaan, a global shea butter supplier, will fund the construction of three warehouses in Northern Ghana, which will improve incomes for women shea farmers in that area.

The Hershey/IOI Loders Croklaan partnership will enable StarShea, a social business that commercializes shea butter supplied by its network of rural Ghanaian women, to construct the warehouses, thereby allowing the women’s cooperative to store shea nuts throughout the season. The move will help increase the women’s profit for their shea crop.

“We know that empowering women provides economic growth opportunities and helps alleviate extreme poverty,” says Frank Day, v.p. of global commodities. “Women in Northern Ghana are producing high-quality shea, and they deserve a fair price for their crop. Supporting women in shea is yet another positive step toward gender equality in West Africa.”

Typically, female shea producers have limited access to the capital they need to sustain their lives and business. StarShea will now be able to give women access to much-needed cash earlier in the shea season by buying their shea nuts at a premium at the beginning of the season and storing them in warehouses until they are sold to IOI Loders Croklaan and ultimately The Hershey Co.

“We are pleased to be partnering with The Hershey Co., who shares our commitment to responsible sourcing and improving the livelihoods of women in West Africa,” said Joost-van Ginneken, IOI Loders Croklaan’s supply chain manager for Africa. “Since 2012, we have been StarShea’s most important global customer and we are thrilled to grow our relationship with them. The work they do supporting female shea producers is extremely important to the growth of the entire African continent.”

Shea butter is used globally in thousands of products ranging from confectionery to personal care. Historically, women who gather shea nuts to sell on the global market receive a very small proportion of the crop’s value. StarShea negotiates contracts with international buyers, registers and trains women in the network, and organizes logistics, traceability and payment to the women.