Gender Implications of Geographical Indications for Ghanaian Shea Butter

This policy briefing is based on research that examines how current debates about extending geographical indications (GI) to products other than wines and spirits may impact women entrepreneurs in developing countries. The case study uses women producing shea butter in Ghana. Policy makers in both developed and developing countries have identified GIs as a potential mechanism to assist the agriculture sector in developing countries by reducing supply competition for traditional products while raising/standardising the quality of those products. As the political relevance and economic value of GIs for national trade and local economies become clearer, countries from the Global South and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are trying to protect local products such as shea butter that were previously considered mere commodities to be sold in bulk and that could now become marketable as specialty foods. However, these countries might be in a particularly weak position to take advantage of the protection afforded by GIs, given the costs involved in establishing and maintaining the institutions and administrative organisations necessary for intellectual property (IP) protection. NGOs working with women in particular claim that GI protection for shea butter is the best way to ensure increased value upstream in the value chain and that women shea butter producers benefit from improvements to the product. This policy briefing argues that women shea butter producers in Ghana may not reap the acclaimed benefits of GI protection and proposes collective place branding as a better alternative.