Since the Shea tree is not cultivated, ownership is by those whose farm it grows on. The Shea nut tree pollinates during the harmattan period and cares for itself till after 4 years when it starts to produce fruits. Harvesting of the Shea fruit is done between mid May through to end of July, whereas the butter processing usually takes place from June through to August.
Traditionally it has been the women who go and pluck or gather the Shea nuts. The women sometimes have to travel as far as 17 kilometres on foot and carry bags in excess of 40kgs on the heads whilst carrying their children on their backs. Working within the Shea trade in many cases is the only form and sole source of income for these women and their families.
Shea oil which is obtained from the Shea nuts is used as cooking oil in the northern part of Ghana, as well as oil for the locals to light up their lamps at night. The skin of the Shea nut is eaten and the bark of the tree is also used as a prophylactic against certain childhood illness and minor scrapes and cuts. The dry shell of the nut when burnt acts as an effective mosquito repellent. In fact even the residue left after the butter has been collected during the extraction process is used as organic manure by the local farmer’s for their crops.