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Shea nut processing
Practical Action
then boiled over an open fire until clear. The oil is left overnight and the next day is stirred
with small sticks when it becomes solid. The resulting shea butter is then ready to be used.
Using this traditional technique, the fat obtained is between 25 and 40 % of the dry kernel
The introduction of equipment may improve upon traditional methods of production by
reducing the effort and time involved and by increasing the yield. Instead of pounding by
hand, a motorised mill can be used. Oil can be extracted using a mechanical or hydraulic
press. An important consideration is that any introduced technology must be at least as
technically efficient in terms of yield as well as being a financially-viable operation.
Shea butter extraction
Attempts have been made to introduce small-scale technology to extract shea butter,
especially the use of a bridge press with marginal yield increases over the manual method.
The resulting press cake provides a useful fuelwood substitute. A fully-motorised method
mimicking the steps involved in the manual rural butter extraction methods was developed by
the Technology Consultancy Centre of Kumasi University of Technology, Ghana but the
equipment is costly and, depending on the shea butter value, may not cover capital and
operating costs. Commercial expellers are used to extract the butter from shea nuts due to
economies of scale. See Technical brief on Oil Extraction for more details on oilseed
Used as baking fat and to substitute cocoa butter in chocolate manufacture and chocolate
confectionery products.
Shea butter is used as a base for cosmetics including skincare products and moisturising
References and further reading
The Butter Tree. Jean-Marc Fleury. 2000. IDRC, Canada
Going for gold in Burkina Faso. The New Agriculturist edition 2008-01
The Shea Project: rebuilding lives and livelihoods in northern Uganda
Extracting profits with a shea butter press. Denis Marchand 1988. IDRC Canada,
Shea nut processing possibilities and problems in the choice of technology for women
Food Chain Issue 22 pages 3-6.
Vitellaria Paradoxa and the Feasibility of a Shea Butter Project in the North of Cameroon.
Karin L. Vermilye B.A. State University of New York at Geneseo presented in partial
fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science, The University of
Montana, 2004.
Shea Butter Extraction in Mali, Appropriate Technology Bulletin No 6
Appropriate Technology International, 1985
The Manual Screw Press for Small-scale Oil Extraction,
This book describes the Practical Action oil press manufacture and use,
Oil Processing: Food Cycle Technology Source Book by UNIFEM,
This book has a broader coverage.
Principles of Oil Extraction Technical Brief, Practical Action.