AAK Expands Program Supporting Women in the Shea Industry

Image courtesy of AAK.

AAK has extended its Kolo Nafaso sustainable shea program, according to a press release, in order to support the growing demand for ethical chocolate.

AAK sources shea kernels from Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, where the kernels are predominantly collected by women. Within Kolo Nafaso, AAK purchases directly from women’s groups, eliminating the need for middlemen and thereby empowering women to invest back into their own communities. On AAK’s side, this direct relationship allows for traceability and transparency that can result in claims on the finished product. As of 2021, the entire program has been verified by Proforest, a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible production and sourcing of agricultural commodities.

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Kolo Nafaso reaches 320,000 women in West Africa, representing 8% of the global shea industry workforce. The women who participate have access to a pre-financing scheme that ensures a stable income even during the period of the year when shea is out of season, and they can opt to receive interest-free credits during lean periods. Members of the program also benefit from training in better processing and business practices, tree-planting support, and access to clean water, as well as from a fully ethical and transparent business relationship.

Luis Parra, Global Business Director Chocolate & Confectionery Fats, said: “To the best of our knowledge, no other commercial program empowers women on the scale of Kolo Nafaso. Our vision is to continuously improve our collaboration and expand its impact in West Africa. We also hope that our model for sustainable sourcing can be inspirational to many other companies.”