When I did this post on Shea butter (ori in Yoruba, okwume in Igbo), I promised to do a follow up post with more in-depth information about this butter that has been identified as one of the greatest moisturizers of our time. A lot of questions were asked by those who read the post either by e-mail or by leaving a comment and I couldn’t answer them all myself. Luckily, one of the people that read my post (albeit months later) was a woman who has been trained in Shea butter processing. Several mails later, I am proud to present you a post where most of your questions have been answered.
I have since purchased two of her largest jars of Shea butter, 250gms at 500 naira (approx $3) each, and have used the butter in making lotions and a conditioner. I have absolutely no complaints about its quality.
Full disclosure: I have not received any payments in cash or kind to do this post or to highlight Mrs. Ndaguba’s business. It is my pleasure to highlight the wonderful things that Nigerians are doing. Adiya has done it with some success and I think that it is laudable to promote Nigerians.
All words in green are my own contribution to the post below. Questions are in bold.
My names are Nelly Ulomo Osagie Ndaguba. I am married and have two boys. I live in Abuja and I am a Nigerian and a Christian. I am a Shea butter processor and currently the 1st Vice president of the National Shea Products Association of Nigeria. I am also the immediate past interim General Secretary of the same association. I am popularly called Nelly Shea butter or Mama Shea butter.
I am the CEO of Nelsag Enterprises Int’l Limited, a company formed in 1981 as an enterprise and later upgraded to a limited liability in 2008. In terms of training, I trained with Dr Peter Lovett of the West African Trade hub, Ghana. The training covered Shea picking, processing, packaging, labeling, formulation and marketing. All my experience and training came from Dr Lovett whom I worked closely with. I also got some training and experience from the American Shea butter institute in Atlanta where I did the analysis that has put my Shea butter as one of the best. Apart from consulting, I work with women groups to process Shea butter and I also train women.
I am currently collaborating with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to form a cluster in the FCT, Abuja.
I think we can all agree that we are being addressed by an expert.
Now, to the benefits of Shea butter:
Shea butter contains Vitamins A & E and F which help to keep the skin supple by hydrating it, prevents wrinkling and improves its elasticity. It even prevents stretch marks and acts as a mild sun-block, protecting the skin from harmful UV rays. For the hair, it can revitalize damaged hair, lend luster and shine and very importantly, it is non- comedogenic (does not block pores or the hair shaft).
Medically, it is used for ailments such as skin discoloration, chapped lips, rashes, eczema, arthritis, burns, muscle aches and even diaper rash. In parts of Northern Nigeria, it is used for cooking. There are many more examples of how Shea butter can be used and what its benefits are but I can’t go into all that here.
This wonder butter comes from the nuts of the Karite tree which grows in West and Central Africa. Interestingly, these trees are not cultivated but grown in the wild. They typically take up to 25-50 years to mature and can live for 300 years! Some people have attempted to start Shea plantations but they have not succeeded – imagine planting a tree now knowing it will yield no fruit for may be 50 years.
How can one tell if Shea Butter is fake or has been adulterated?
Good quality Shea butter starts from the processing phase. Authenticity can only really be determined by a Shea butter expert. It would be difficult for a novice to tell if Shea butter has been tampered with as it usually all looks the same. That’s why I advice people not to buy from the market. Some butters smell bad and when you touch or rub it between your fingers, it feels watery and not as thick as it should be. Generally, Shea butter has two colors: a grayish color and a buttery color. Any deviation from this may mean that it is adulterated.
What are the ways in which Shea butter can be adulterated?
Some processors add ash water (water from ashes – a raw material for black soap) to their Shea butter and some store it in water. A lot of people selling in the market keep their butter inside water to solidify because they feel it is the best method of preservation.
So what is the best way of storing Shea butter?
For one thing, don’t leave Shea butter in the sun as it will melt and turn into oil. This is not good as it leads to a loss of the properties of Shea butter and so decreases its efficacy. Also, don’t store your Shea butter in a freezer (I did this and thanks to a 2-week power outage, my Shea butter became moldy). In the picture below, you will see a man with wrapped Shea butter. That’s the way some people preserve theirs. We have stopped this in some areas and will continue to sensitize people about this.
The best way to keep your Shea butter is in an airtight container which is stored in a cool, dry place. On no account should it be kept in water as that is the greatest enemy of Shea butter.
What are your plans for reaching the local and international market?
How may prospective buyers reach you?
The business is based in Abuja and we also have sales outlets in some parts of the country.
Lagos State: 08034711397 and 08023846558.
Edo State: 07035149578 and 08033972672
Delta State: Warri: 07030991829; Asaba: 08033096049
Delivery is possible in each state, however bulk orders are handled from Abuja only.