Improving the Quality of Womenâs Gold in Mali, West Africa: The Case of Shea
Perakis, Sonja Melissa
The collection, primary processing, and subsequent sale of shea-based products make an important contribution to rural womenâs cash income in many of Maliâs shea producing areas. Internationally, shea has recently become popular in high-valued cosmetics thanks to its therapeutic propertiesâ a deviation away from its historic use as a cheap cocoa-butter substitute. For these reasons, international development actors have targeted the Malian shea value chain as part of their private-sector-development and rural-poverty-alleviation programs and strategies. Information asymmetry in the production and marketing of shea has led to a âMarket for Lemonsâ scenario much like that described by Akerlof (1970), thereby compromising the subsectorâs potential to serve as a powerful source of rural income growth and poverty alleviation. A combination of tools is used to describe the Malian shea value chain, including the âStructure, Conduct, Performanceâ framework borrowed from the industrial organization literature and the âSubsector Studiesâ approach popular in current export-led international development strategies. Analogies from subsectors historically plagued by adverse selection and moral hazard are used to identify potential leverage points and intervention strategies for stakeholders to help improve shea quality and returns to primary producers. The analysis suggests the Malian government has the potential to play an important role in this process as a coordinating body and channel captain, with donors and private enterprises playing complementary roles.
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