Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh: Young women of color have a unique perspective that should be valued, and we deserve a seat at the table

Meet WANDA Woman Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh, M.A., a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research at Howard University, specializing in Public Policy and Development.

Supported by the USAID Feed the Future program and motivated by her desire to advance the well-being of communities within the black diaspora, Bathsheba performed her six-month dissertation fieldwork in northern Ghana where she focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness.

Despite rural African women being put forward as the main beneficiaries of policy changes that underwrite agrarian transformation, women are often left most vulnerable when commercial agri-business interests are put above the interests of smallholder farmers.

Bathsheba worked directly with local farmers, both men, and women, to provide strategies to maximize their productivity. 

 


What are you studying at Howard University?

 

I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research.  My specialization is Public Policy and Development.

Why do you think this area of study is crucial to the development of your country and the African continent as a whole?

 

As an African American, I believe strongly in collaborating and forging relationships, networks, and organizational and professional work in helping to advance the lives of all peoples of African descent within the diaspora and on the African continent.

As the world continues to become more integrated, it is important that national development policies and international agendas are designed for the benefit of people on the continent. The Diaspora can play a critical role in the development of the continent and we must see this as a collective challenge.

As Black people, we cannot be fully liberated until we ensure our fellow sisters and brothers are free, from the United States to the continent, to Asia and Europe and the Caribbean. Learning from each other and building coalitions whether through business, non-profits, educational institutions, is a key strategy in the era of globalization.

Tell us about the project you worked on in Ghana. 

 

I was a U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Fellow, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Leadership Program.  As a U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Ghana, I was provided financial and institutional support for my six-month dissertation fieldwork.

I am really interested in how the advanced global economy and international policies impact the livelihoods of rural, agrarian communities, especially for women and their families.  This is an incredibly important topic because women play such a significant role in providing food and managing the nutritional needs of her family.

My project focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness. I conducted a focused ethnographic case study on Dagomba communities in northern Ghana that were affected by the biofuel industry collapse in the country.

I am really interested in bringing the experiences of the women and men to the fore and how they are adapting to changes in their environment and the implications on their food and nutrition security.   

Often times during agrarian transformation, women are more vulnerable to losing access to land within societies that are already discriminatory against women with respect to land-use rights.  Additionally, the large-scale agribusiness, in this case, was destructive to the environment, damaged the soils through use of harsh chemicals and pesticides, and deforested vital trees like the Shea tree and Dawa Dawa tree.

These trees are significant culturally and also economically and nutritionally as products derived from these trees are a great source of income for women and provide nutritional and medicinal benefits to the communities in which I worked.

What did your experience in Ghana teach you? 

Being in Ghana was my first time on the African Continent.  As a woman of African descent, being in Ghana was one of the most exciting, meaningful, and transformative experiences of my life.

The beauty of the country and the warmth and hospitality of Ghanaians and the friendships I made was such an incredible part of my time in Ghana.  Visiting Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Castles and the Pikworo Slave Camp in the Upper East Region, near Burkina Faso allowed me to learn about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the African context and it helped me connect the dots, so to speak, about our history and was one of the most memorable parts of my trip.

On a personal level, it made me want even more to discover my roots through genetic testing.

Academically, through my collaboration with other students and researchers in the country and most importantly, my work in the villages, I learned that I truly want to work in the arena of helping to improve the lives and welfare of vulnerable communities.

What intrigues you the most about the people you have met and supported through your work?

 

What intrigues me most about the community members in the villages in which I worked was the sincere level of gratitude shown toward me.

The communities were very much aware of their challenges and were so open to sharing their experiences with me and together we devised ways to improve their livelihoods in the short-term through creating farmer’s groups.

This was not an initial plan but evolved, as a response to community needs. I was able to provide informational sessions to communities, both women and men’s groups, on how to register their farming groups and provided strategies to maximize their productivity, how to get technical training from the local agricultural extension and gain support from the local assemblies for community needs.

Morolake Ogunbeku-Bello: I started selling shea butter locally before getting international buyers

Originally trained at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria as a physiotherapist, the foray of Morolake Ogunbeku-Bello into business was needless to say, a daunting task.

Marrying her background in the medical profession with growing up in Nigeria, Morolake was well positioned to acknowledge the importance of Ori (African shea butter), a viable product used extensively in Nigeria. But she went further, after various works of research and training, to reinvent this product. She calls her brand the Ori-Ewa Shea butter

In this exclusive interview, she talks about her journey so far and why every home should have Ori-Ewa shea. Her story is inspiring as much as it is challenging. Happy reading. 


 

Tell us briefly about your brand, Ori-Ewa shea butter.

 

Ori-Ewa shea is an indispensable companion and every home must have one. This is because from our head (hair) to the toes (foot), shea butter is very useful. Apart from preventing hair breakage and promoting hair growth, it’s effect on joint pain and inflammation is magical.
In addition, here are a few of its other benefits/uses: Good for rough/dry skin, skin rashes, and a peeling skin It helps to heal small skin wounds, sunburn; It can also remove blemishes and wrinkles.

 

On the whole, Ori-Ewa shea makes the skin healthy, and can even prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.

How did you start the Ori-Ewa brand?

The business idea came when I was looking for something to do outside the medical field where I was originally trained. I have always wanted to be an exporter. So the search began and then I came across non-oil products and shea butter happens to be one of them.

 

I did an extensive research on how to start, by training and joining an international association on shea butter.

 

I also joined a cooperative here in Nigeria to know more about the product and for proper training because shea butter is more than what we see on the street and most especially when you’re looking at the export side of the business.

 

After this, I went for the international conference of Global Shea Alliance (GSA) in the Benin Republic and several other conferences organized by USAID, NEXTT, NEPC etc.

 

Indeed, the startup capital is not quite much, but the cost of training, as well as conferences, is quite high. Although some are free, becoming a member of the cooperative and international body is not.

What inspired you to start it?

Like I said earlier, I got into the business because I was looking for a source of extra income and export happened to be my target. I needed to start small.

 

I was counseled to start selling locally before getting international offers and buyers. That was how I started shea butter formulations and packaging; packing them in small plastic containers based on the training I have had.

 

I got into the business because I was looking for a source of extra income Click To Tweet

What and what obstacles stood in your way when you started and how did you overcome them?

As for me, I don’t see obstacles. Rather, I see them as challenges and those things I need to work on. However, a major issue remains the quality and pricing; most people compare the price of Ori-Ewa shea butter to the shea butter they sell on the streets as well as in the local markets.

 

Little do they know that the local ones are usually exposed to direct sunlight and dust making them dirty, thereby lowering their quality. Having said that, it’s important to emphasize that Ori-Ewa Shea is pure, clean and packed under good hygienic conditions.

As a result, you will surely get value for your money on any pack of Ori-Ewa shea butter bought.
I don't see obstacles, rather, I see them as challenges Click To Tweet

What makes your brand stand out in the market

The Quality of our shea butter is top notch. Ori-Ewa Shea is unique just because the quality is not what you can find in any market in Nigeria today. It is Grade A, with an export quality that has all the healing properties intact.
When it comes to our brand, quality takes the front seat. And that’s the major reason why our customers keep coming back.

 

Compared to when you started, how large is your market right now and how do you hope to scale it?

To the glory of God, I started in a very small way with 1kg, then 5kg, then 7kg and so on. At the moment I have buyers in different parts of the country and with God’s help, I have some of my products in the USA already, Texas to be precise.

 

Right now, I’m seriously on the lookout for partnerships with international companies that make use of shea butter.

Looking back, what are those two key qualities you think any budding entrepreneur must have?

The two key words are; One, take that step (as in START). Two, DON’T GIVE UP (once you’ve taken that bold step, the next bolder step doesn’t quit, don’t stop, don’t give up, just keep moving).

 

The reason is that life is all about risk taking and it’s better to fail as a brave woman and not as a coward who hasn’t tried anything. People would say “she actually tried even though she failed; she didn’t give up“.

 

Remember the popular saying, quitters never win and winners never quit. Even the Bible says it that no one has put his hands on the plow and look back is fit for the kingdom of God. Just keep going, don’t stop.

In addition to taking the bold step and being resilient, what other qualities do you think a budding entrepreneur must have? Share your thoughts here