Building and living with the Shea Tree, a 200 year long relationship.


Select 1 to 6 earthen homes... 


These are the earthen homes of the Gurunsi in Burkina Faso. The men build them and the women decorate the facades with waterproof clay plasters in patterns, all of which have a symbolic meaning. The small round houses, called 'dra', belong to young singles while the rectangular 'mangolo' with a terrace belong to young couples.


The 'bilobées' belong to the older women and young children. You can watch a video (below) of a Gurunsi woman mixing, plastering and decorating her home. The water used in the preparation of shea butter, which ends up with an oily texture, helps to make the plaster water-proof.


Gurunsi woman painting her house, Burkina Faso


The Shea tree, as well as providing food, is used by the Gurunsi for treating jaundice and diarrhoea. The flowers are edible and the bark of the tree is used to treat gastric pain.

It takes about 15 years before a tree begins to fruit and about 25 years before it is fully mature after which it will produce fruit for about the next 200 years.

The shea fruit is a thin nutritious pulp around a large, oil-rich kernel which is used to make shea butter. The fruit is tasty and rich in vitamins and antioxidants.


A Shea Tree, Burkina Faso



The Shea tree grows in west and central Africa. It's usually women and children that harvest, process and sell shea products providing financial independence. With a high market value and uses in cooking and cosmetics, Shea butter has become known as Burkina Faso's gold where over 50% of the population is involved in its production. By selling fruits, seeds, nuts and leaves, women and children earn their own income.


Shea kernels


Shea butter, which is used as an ingredient in many natural cosmetics, comes from the kernel of the tree's fruit. For women in poor rural communities making and selling shea butter and shea soaps can provide a pathway out of poverty.

The shea fruit seeds are boiled making the shell easier to break, and then dried in the sun. The shell is removed and used for fuel leaving the kernel (left) to be crushed, roasted and ground into a paste (right).


Mixing shea paste for songtaaba


A dra, a small round houses


The shea paste is then churned by hand for about two hours to extract the shea butter which is skimmed off, washed and cooled for sale in markets. You can watch the whole process in this video by Green People.


Women's Shea Butter Project in Ghana



Gurunsi woman selling shea soap


TREE AID, who help villagers living in the drylands of Africa use trees to reduce poverty and protect the environment, train locals in the best shea processing methods, and how to sell their shea products. You can support the work of TREE AID by helping to plant a shea tree.


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