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Women make the difference in rural Ghana

Female entrepreneurship

PUM experts make a positive contribution by transferring their knowledge and expertise to entrepreneurs and local communities. Expert Piet van den Oetelaar went to the women’s community in Zugu in northern Ghana in February 2018. A few months after his mission the community was able to acquire a kneading machine with help from PUM’s Hans Blankert Fund. This investment creates employment for hundreds of extra women in Ghana!

The women in the village of Zugu, Ghana produce the shea butter that Rabiatu purchases. After Piet’s mission, the company offered employment to approximately 700 women. Now there are 1500 women from 15 different villages. The community has already mechanized parts of the manual production process. The kneading machine takes over part of the heavy work. After the purchase of the kneading machine the women continue to work, so there is no loss of labor, only higher productivity!

Help from Hans Blankert Fund

The kneading machines cost €2500 each, of which the Hans Blankert Fund (HBF) would pay 50% if Rabiatu could provide the other 50%. The construction of a building for the kneading machine cost the community € 2500. The Hans Blankert Fund financed the kneading machine, and the machine was manufactured locally. Thanks to the HBF, PUM representative Fati Issahaku transferred the kneading machines to the community in Zugu and in a second village, Gumo, in October 2018. Kassim Abu Imoro of Maltiti A. Enterprise notes: “It is a resounding success. Hundreds of women have benefited considerably from these machines.”

‘The growth of the company creates new communities, enabling more women to work’

Piet: “Rabiatu is an inspiring woman. She ensures that the women produce good quality products, she trains them, and she mechanizes the manual processes. Through her efforts, women earn more and the levels of education and prosperity increases. In addition, Rabiatu helps the women with savings on their mobile phones. The growth of the company creates new communities, allowing more women to work. Part of the proceeds are used to send children to school.”

 

With her company Maltiti A. Enterprise, Rabiatu Abukari provides work for some 700 Ghanaian women in rural areas. She called on PUM expert Piet van den Oetelaar for advice on how to ensure the business could keep growing. And he was impressed: ‘This company proves that one woman’s drive for entrepreneurship can make a difference in the lives of thousands of others.’

‘There are 670 women working here in the production of shea butter’

At the beginning of 2004, Rabiatu Abukari started to make shea butter, a versatile butter extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree. It is used in cooking but is also noted for its benefits for the skin. The butter proved popular and Rabiatu decided to approach the business more professionally. As production is fairly labour intensive, she set up communities run by women in various villages. Piet: ‘There are 670 women now working in the production of shea butter, spread over ten communities. Another three communities will be set up this year and they’ll be much needed as the shea butter is being exported to countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada. And recently Maltiti created a line of cosmetics based on shea butter including black soap, shampoo, creams and lotions.’

‘Women bring in about 80% of the family income’

Breaking with traditional roles

Maltiti’s impact on the whole of the community has been huge. Piet: ‘All the women working for Maltiti have an income which enables them to look after their family and send their children to school. They bring in about 80% of the family income, which means traditional ideas on the roles of men and women are slowly having to change. What’s more, shea butter production requires water and electricity. These resources are laid on by local government, but Rabiatu has taken the initiative to get the lines extended to the production locations. And she’s dug water wells so that they’re no longer reliant on the mains water. It’s not unusual for the mains water to be cut off for days on end; in which case the whole village then uses the water wells in the production centres.’

 

New organisational structure

‘With the company growing, and Rabiatu being responsible for everything, the organisation was starting to get too much for her. I helped her set up a new organisational structure with appropriate positions and responsibilities. She then made two family members who were already very active in the company responsible for sales & administration and production & planning. Rabiatu presented and discussed the new roles during a personnel meeting. She’s so driven that she of course immediately turned her words into action. I also helped in designing the layout of a new production centre. One had already been built but there hadn’t been enough attention paid to production processes and logistics. Together, we’ve worked to organise the site as efficiently as possible.’

 ‘Traditional ideas on the roles of men and women are changing’

Piet van den Oetelaar (60) has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Holding various managerial positions, he has mainly been responsible for developing new products. He started working as a PUM expert mid-2017 and his journey to Ghana was his first PUM mission.

 

Rabiatu Abukari, owner of Maltiti A. Enterprise: ‘We’re at an important crossroads with Maltiti A. Enterprise. Over the past few years we’ve worked hard on getting the production of shea butter and black soap off the ground. And we’ve done it, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of strong Ghanaian women. In the next few years, we want to work on developing the quality of our products. Initially, we will focus on our home market in Ghana, but of course, in time, we want to play an increasingly bigger role in the international market. Which is why I’m so happy with Piet’s help. His technical knowledge of business and production processes has meant we have been able to take definite steps. We had to set up a new organizational structure in order to ensure my company could progress, and he has helped me enormously with the development plans for our new production centre for black soap. We’ve really benefitted from his knowledge and years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. And his efforts have not gone unnoticed: in a special ritual our chief presented him with an honorary title of ‘chief’. In our culture, that is a great honour and shows how much we appreciate what Piet has done.’