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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Negotiating across difference: Gendered exclusions and cooperation in the shea value chain

Elias, Marlene; Arora-Jonsson, Seema


Shea butter, derived from the African shea tree, has acquired a pivotal position in global agro-food and cosmetics industries. In Burkina Faso, public and private actors as well as civil society are converging upon the product to boost the incomes of rural female producers. As a result of these trends, the shea value chain is increasingly segmented; shea nuts are sold in a low-return, conventional market and simultaneously enter an alternative, high-value niche market. In the latter strand of the value chain, some producers are improving their prospects by forming an association. Tracing relationships across the two strands, we demonstrate how horizontal' relations based on gender, ethnicity, age and geography contribute to shaping participation and benefit capture in the shea value chain. We argue that processes of social inclusion and exclusion operate in parallel, as differentiated actors both cooperate and compete to secure their place within the chain. While collective organizing brings positive social and economic benefits, we show that producers' associations need not be empowering for all women. The significance of collective enterprises, but also their drawbacks must be considered when valorising pathways to women's empowerment. Our study reinforces calls for greater integration of horizontal elements in value chain analyses.


Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa); value chains; gender; Burkina Faso; social inclusion; exclusion; collectives

Published in

Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
2017, Volume: 35, number: 1, pages: 107-125

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG5 Gender equality
    SDG8 Decent work and economic growth
    SDG10 Reduced inequalities

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Anthropology
    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
    Human Geography

    Publication identifier


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