Home > Agriculture, Industry > Sheanut ‘Chocolate’ a future possibility?

Sheanut ‘Chocolate’ a future possibility?

How would you feel if something you have always discarded as useless is suddenly found to be really useful after all, promising you new ways of earning money and a chance to provide people with an additional source of food?
This is the case with the sheabutter residue, which has been considered as a nutritionally valueless by-product by sheabutter extractors for generations. The thick brownish substance that is left after sheabutter has been extracted from the nuts which have been dried, crushed and roasted is usually thrown away, or used to feed animals.
However, recent research carried out at the Tamale Polythecnic under the leadership of Hajia Adiza Sadik, a lecturer at the school, shows that the residue can be processed into an edible chocolate like substance which can earn additional income for sheabutter extractors and provide people with a vitamin rich meal.
Madam Sadik and her team were able to process the residue into chocolate-like bars and spreads following the same recipe used for the manufacture of chocolate from cocoa.
“Sheabutter residue is very rich in vitamins and for years I have pondered over how it can be processed into an acceptable meal for commercial consumption. When I discovered the recipe for making chocolate from cocoa on the internet, I followed the recipe and after repeated experiments came out with a formula that tastes just like chocolate”, she said.
The next step, for Madam Sadik, is to replicate her findings on a larger scale and carry out more extensive scientific research on it with the assistance of nutritionists and biochemists to determine its actual food value, the various components of vitamins it contains as well as their composition and how it can be preserved.
“I managed to preserve the spread in the refrigerator for over a year without any preservatives. The main problem is how to keep the bar stable since it melts a few minutes after it has been taken out of the refrigerator”.
Madam Sadik expressed her desire to embark on an extensive project on her discovery since its success would ensure more income for sheabutter extractors, provide additional employment, ensure that the sheanut tree is well utilized by not throwing away the residue and also provide people with another source of food.
Miss Bernice Naah, an educationist pursuing a Masters Programme in Information Technology at the University of Cape Coast attested to the fact that sheabutter residue is edible if handled the proper way.
She recalled that her mother used to make sheabutter and the women who assisted her used to add cassava flour mixed with water to the residue and stir it on fire until it was roasted dry. Salt was then added to the resulting mixture which was then served as a meal.
Miss Naarh described the meal as very tasty; “Children in my house were always happy whenever sheabutter is being extracted because they knew they would take a good meal”.
If the initial experiments conducted at the Tamale Polytechnic are replicated and found to be economically viable, it would expand the economic benefits of the sheanut tree and pave the way for more decisive steps by government to assist women involved in the collection of the nuts with the necessary logistics to enable them to harvest more nuts.
Officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and Non-governmental organizations working with women have repeatedly stressed the need for women involved in sheanut collection to be provided with wellington boots, bicycles and other relevant tools to assist them with their task.
Presently, there exists enough sheanut trees to support any agro- based industry. It occupies a landmass of about 77,670 square kilometers in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions with a few in the Brong-Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern and Volta regions
The existence of the sheanut tree has however been taken for granted, without any interventions to protect it from human and environmental hazards. One area of concern is the destruction of the tree by bushfires and sand and gravel winning activities. It’s over-exploitation as a source of fuel wood during formal celebrations such as festivals, funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies because it provides the best charcoal and fuel wood is also a matter of grave concern.

This is in spite of the fact that apart from serving as a source of sheabutter which also has medicinal properties, all parts of the plant, including its leaves, bark, roots and even flowers are useful to man in various ways.
The success of the sheanut ‘chocolate’ project, apart from encouraging people to preserve the tree would improve upon the fragile food security in the region by addressing vitamin and micro-nutrient deficiency in the populace, especially among children, by providing them with a rich source of micro-nutrients.
Traditionally, sheabutter residue is used to plaster mud houses to improve upon their durability by making them impervious to water. The recent discovery that the residue can be developed into a chocolate like food item is reminiscent of the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, one of Christian Anderson’s fairytales, in which a wicked witch built her house out of candies in a bid to attract children to her home in order to kill them.
It means people in the Northern; Upper East and Upper West regions have been plastering their houses with ‘chocolate’ without been aware of it.

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