How long do you think it takes for a shea nut tree to mature?
My mind was blown by this fact. Think of what those trees have witnessed. The area I visited was once plagued by civil war. I wondered whether soldiers had once used those trees for shade, or perhaps refugees had hidden under them.
It takes 30 years for a tree to produce nuts. Once the fruit is ripe it falls to the ground. It’s from here that the wonderful women I photographed collect the nuts. They head out earlier each morning before dawn. Once they’ve got that day’s harvest, they walk home to clean off the fruit and prepare the nut. Any edible food that hasn’t been taken by wildlife is eaten. Sometimes it’s eaten with oil made from shea nuts (which by the way, is super tasty).
The clean nut is then dried, shelled and dried again. This whole process take several days. The trees only produce fruits once a year. This season is lucrative for these women, it’s integral to their income. As well selling shea nuts, these women also run their homes, look after their families, grow and sell food and may also sell other products like shea nut oil or home brews.
I learnt so much those few days, and I am grateful to the women I met near Mojo and Arua for their hospitality and for allowing me to stick a camera in their faces!
I’m also happy to share with you now just a small selection of the images I produced for Reverie Shea.
© 2016 Emily Ward (All Rights Reserved)