Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)


Mechanical Engineering

Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Delcie Durham, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

James R. Mihelcic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tara Deubel, Ph.D.


Energy Analysis, Food Security, Gender, Improved Technology, Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development


The shea tree is indigenous to 21 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and provides nuts from which oil (referred to as butter) can be extracted. Shea butter production in the Northern Region of Ghana is of socioeconomic importance to female processors who practice shea production. This study quantified the environmental effects of shea processing from carbon dioxide emissions and the human energy expended through the traditional, improved, and centralized methods of shea processing. Par-boiling accounted for up to 88% of total carbon dioxide emissions throughout the entire shea butter production process. A difference of 2.5(CO2 (kg))/(Shea butter (kg)) emitted observed between the traditional and centralized processing methods. The moisture content of 16 firewood samples collected at the centralized processing center found wood moisture to range between 9-34%. The largest amounts of human energy expended during traditional and improved processes take place during the nut collection process followed by manual crushing (40% and 20% of total energy expended during the traditional method, respectively). Women in the study area were found to travel an average of 10 km to pay for a corn mill to process their shea kernels into a paste, producers also expressed interest in mechanized crushing machines during household surveys. User perceptions of the improved roasting equipment were found to be positive, as well as adoption of the new technology was observed by all shea producers surveyed in the village of Tigla. The entirety of individual producers surveyed without access to improved roasters expressed interest in obtaining and utilizing improved roasters to improve the traditional method currently practiced. The profit observed from shea kernel processing and sales was found to be higher than women practicing traditional shea butter processing and sales due to time, energy, and inputs required by completing the entire process. Butter producers at centralized processing centers have the opportunity to make up to 33% higher profits while utilizing less energy (54% reduction) by purchasing directly from kernel producers and implementing improved technologies in a centralized setting. The potential of shea production in northern Ghana has yet to be reached. Through adoption of improved technologies, women have the opportunity to save time and human energy, reduce material inputs such as firewood, and in turn are able produce an even greater amount of marketable shea products.