Loading... Please wait...

Overcoming the Poverty Trap

The UN Millenium Goals 

The United Nations created the Milllenium Development Goals as a blueprint for the world's countries to make unprecedented efforts in helping the world's poor to rise above the cruel conditions of extreme poverty by 2015. These extreme conditions are referred to as a "Poverty Trap," because it is difficult for individuals to overcome the systemic causes of extreme poverty on their own.

Although some countries have made solid in-roads in tackling these problems, many millions are still suffering from extreme poverty in the world today. 

The goals seem readily attainable, if only politics-as-usual did not get in the way.  Even though we are a business, and not a charity, we've been able to address these goals, simply by being involved at the community level and following the principles of fair trade. Here's how we've done in our small corner of the Upper East Region in Ghana, W. Africa in addressing these goals:

 

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 1:  ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER

As we have been working in the same village for the past ten years, we can honestly say that our fair trade and sustainable development model have begun to work. The wages made by the 400 women of Ojoba Women's Shea Cooperative have let the subsistence farming community purchase additional food when their crop yields are meager, eliminating hunger; make additional income through micro-credit schemes and for the first time allow savings accounts.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 2:  ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION

Before we began working in the village, most parents could not afford the school fees to put their children into school. Many children helped their parents on the family farm and education was a luxury. 

Although there has been a call to abolish school fees in Ghana, they still exist and universal education for all is still not a reality. Through gainful employment in shea butter production, we are happy to say all the cooperative members' children are in school and we now have our first two young women going to college!

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 3:  PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN

Ten years ago, when we arrived in the village to meet a small group of women making shea butter, they were reserved and shy and had not met visitors there before. They told us about their lives, the extreme poverty they lived in and the obstacles they faced. They rarely shared with their neighbors and generally kept to themselves. 

Fast forward ten years to today. The Ojoba Women's Shea Cooperative has 400 empowered and out spoken women that have not only lifted themselves out of abject poverty but become a vibrant community. Many women tell us the greatest thing that happened to them with the job in shea butter production is not the wages but the "socialization aspect" of them coming together as women. 

The women are the real wage earners in the village working not only in shea butter production but other micro-enterprises as well. The men, although at first jealous, now accept and cherish the role the women play. Domestic violence is almost non-existent and the family is now stronger, happier and better able to meet life's challenges.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 4:  REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY 

Each year in sub-Saharan Africa more than half a million people die from malaria and most are under 5 years of age. In the early years of working with our cooperative, we held educational programs on malaria. We distributed free insecticide treated malaria nets and instructed how to use them. We still go to cooperative members homes today and find the malaria nets in use! Although we cannot say no young children have malaria, we can say the use of mosquito nets has helped reduce child mortality from malaria dramatically. 

Each cooperative member also has health insurance now with the Ghana National Health Plan. This enables the cooperative women health care for their families and we see the results first hand. Sick children are taken to the doctor quickly as it is now not a luxury to afford to see a medical professional.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 5:  IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH

With the introduction of the Ghana Health Insurance plan to our 400 cooperative women, maternal health has certainly improved. The plan has allowed the women easy and accessible health care when needed.

The cooperative has hosted many community health meetings by NGO's on hygiene, nutrition, and family planning. 

Our cooperative allows maternal leave and the members get paid on all shea butter orders whether they are working or on leave.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 6:  COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES

As with most of the UN Millennium Goals, they are inter-related. Through reducing child mortality rates through providing Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN's) to mothers with small children, we have done a small part to combat malaria in the village of our cooperative. As whole families sleep under the ITN's, we are sure the nets have lessened the cases of malaria within the village.

As for other diseases, the fact that our cooperative and their families have the National Ghana Health Insurance plan and can be diagnosed early by a physician is a most positive development. Again, this would also be of benefit with HIV/AIDS, although incidences are already low in Ghana compared to other parts of Africa.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 7:  ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

From the collecting of wild shea nuts to our production of shea butter, we have strived from the onset to operate sustainably both environmentally and socially. In recent visits with our cooperative in Ghana, we have noticed a 50% reduction in our use of firewood for shea butter production. Our aim is to have a 100% reduction by 2015. 

We have been using solar technologies for two years and are looking at further ways to harness the sun for our production purposes. It is our goal to have a fully green manufacturing facility in the near future.

We have implemented permaculture and organic farming training programs for the cooperative which they are using both at home and at the manufacturing facility. We are reusing dry shea residue in production for burning and reuse waste water for watering shade bearing trees.

 

UN MILLENIUM GOAL 8:  GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT

Although Ojoba Collective is not partnered with any large NGO’ s where we receive donations, we have implemented development projects with the help of our charity and a wonderful business partner. When we started Ojoba Collective 10 years ago, we decided to put 10% of our year end profit into sustainable development projects in West Africa.


Through our business partnership with the ethical, fresh handmade cosmetics company LUSH, we have together been able to make real change in the village where we operate our shea production facility. From building a library to offering permaculture/organic farming courses, LUSH has been a wonderful, committed business partner every step of the way.

Sign up to our newsletter

     

Recent Updates