he Magazea of Gushie in Ghana, West Africa, is the most respected woman in the township, second only to the Chief. Her opinion is highly regarded, and her trust must be gained by any foreigners looking to work with the farmers in the area -- even those that promise to help have to be vetted.
This area of Northern Ghana is home to numerous shea nut trees used to make shea butter -- a key ingredient in countless hair and beauty products manufactured and sold in the West. Middleman upon middleman in the area, however, capitalized upon the industry by creating a chain of commerce that squeezed margins incredibly thin. Each "business man" would pit one farmer against the next, buying from the lowest bidder in what was often a bad deal that left farmers in the area hardly selling at break-even prices in fear of not selling their crop at all.
Just Shea entered the community with the hopes of remedying this cyclical demise by creating silos to store the nuts during the entire harvest season. By banding together with enough product at the end of the season when demand was increasing, Gushie's farmers had more selling power and greater control over their yield and who they sold to, which enabled them to earn far more than before and -- for the first time in history -- what amounts to a fair market value.
Loans that were set up at the beginning of the program to sustain the farmers' families while they waited for a better time to sell were all repaid. And in the process, the farmers -- most of which were the women, and many of whom were pregnant -- received safety gear such as rubber boots and gloves to protect them from life-threatening bites from the black mamba snakes that roamed through the tall grasses from which fallen shea nuts are gathered.
Just Shea creates shea butter products directly from the harvests of these farms. The profits it makes from selling these products in stores in New York City are then put back into helping those in Gushie.
The Magazea's red hands are dyed from years of applying a red ointment believed to ward off evil spirits and bad health.