Hand cream, body cream and soap are things that people use frequently. However, some of the ingredients in these products are not produced in an ethical way - the people who make some of the ingredients cannot get enough income, or children cannot go to school. One example ingredient like this is shea butter, which is made from a nut grown in West Africa. This essay first describes Shea butter in detail, then looks at some problems it causes, and outlines some possible solutions to these problems.
This paragraph describes shea butter in detail. Shea butter is a kind of ingredient for cosmetics that comes from the nut of the shea tree. It is similar in appearance to olive oil, which is also a natural vegetable oil, but in comparison, shea butter's color is more brown ("A dance," n.d.). Another difference is that while olive oil is made from the flesh of the olive, shea butter is made from its 5cm to 8cm nut ("Olive," n.d; "Shiabata no," 2014). The tree takes 10 years to mature, and only after that are the nuts are harvested and the butter made ("Shea butter's," 2014). To make the butter, the nuts are first ground with water and cooked slowly. After that the mixture is left to cool, and finally the clean fat is skimmed, collected, and dried ("Shea butter," n.d.). This butter has been used for centuries in West Africa - it is only made by women, and is related with the history and culture of the area ("Shea Butter History," n.d.). It is difficult to make it well, partly because the trees take 10 years to grow nuts, and partly because the colour and flavour can change depending on when the nuts are picked ("Shea butter," n.d.). Although Shea butter can be a good source of income for the people of the area, the next paragraph outlines three problems its production can cause.
There are three problems that people making shea butter experience - income problems, child education, and loss of trees. The first problem is income. Developed countries buy shea butter too cheaply. Because of this, there is only a small income to people who make it ("Ekomamu," 2014). The second problem is child education. Because of the lack of money, children have to work making shea butter ("Nigeria Ghana," 2005). This is why many of them cannot read or write, and when too many people are not educated, it causes problems for the economy of a country as people have problems arranging export, negotiating, and getting information ("Burkina Faso," n.d.). The final problem is loss of trees. Some people cut down the shea trees in order to get charcoal. Charcoal is sold as a commodity, and people can get income quickly ("Charity – shea dream," 2012). However, the trees take a very long time to grow again, and until then people cannot make the butter ("Charity – shea dream," 2012). In summary, there are three main problems - money, child education, and loss of trees. However, the next paragraph examines some possible solutions to these issues.
There are three organizations trying to solve the issues outlined above – JICA, Intiraymi, and Fair Trade. The first organization is JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), which encourages international cooperation with developing countries ("Case 2: Ghana," n.d.). In 2000, they supported the production of shea butter by a women's group and from 2002 to 2003, they supported the production of shea butter soap by JICA volunteers ("Case 2: Ghana," n.d.). Also in 2007, they created a leaflet about shea butter production, which now supports spreading awareness of the problems ("Case 2: Ghana," n.d.). However, a survey in 2009 showed that many people still do not know what shea butter is ("Case 2: Ghana," n.d.), so this leaflet is perhaps not working. The second organization is activities by Intiraymi which is social contribution platform ("Tnpinn," n.d.). They gather with local women, and make shea butter at factory. Because of this, it is possible to earn the education expenses, go to school and get job. Also, they launch the NGO to support children, set up schools and hire teachers ("Tnpinn," n.d.). This solution, as it directly helps the people making the butter, seems to be effective, however it no research has been done on the number of jobs created, and the number of children who are actually attending the schools is low ("Tnpinn,"n.d.). The final solution is Fair Trade. Many companies are dealing with Fair Trade shea butter, for example Kokoro cosme, and Mother Earth ("Fair Trade," n.d.). Fair trade butter is guaranteed to made at a fair price, not by children, and sustainably ("Fair Trade," 2007). However, only a small percentage of shea butter produced is Fair Trade, and people are not aware enough of this issue to know that they should only buy Fair Trade. Also, there is a chance that, as with coffee, the extra money people pay for Fair Trade does not get to the local people (Griffiths, 2007). In summary, there are three organisations working on this problem - JICA, Intiraymi and Fair Trade - of which the most effective seems to be Intiraymi.
In conclusion, this essay first explained what shea butter was, then described some problems its production causes, and critically examined some possible answers to those issues. Shea butter is very important production for women in West Africa. However these people are experiencing problems in terms of money, education and loss of the trees themselves. Possible solutions to the three problems are the work of JICA, Intiraymi, and campaigns to promote Free Trade Shea butter, of which only the work of Intiraymi is really effective. As such, university students wanting to help should donate to Intiraymi, and tell their friends about Free Trade Shea butter products - if these products are not available, they should write a letter to their local shop asking for them to stock some.
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