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Traditionally, the large and treasured shea butter tree provided the primary edible vegetable fat to peoples inhabiting a vast tract of wooded grassland this is vulnerable to some of the worst droughts of the arable world. It is often the only tree allowed to grow through its allotted lifespan, 400 years or more. Nutritionally speaking, shea is noteworthy for providing storable food that is capable of providing a steady source of buttery energy year-round. (E,C.M. Fernandes, ecf3@cornell.edu)

Beyond shea butter, this tree produces edible fruits, edible flowers, medicines, and several other necessities. And it does it all without human help or horticultural support in some of the most challenging inhabited sites on earth.

For all its international obscurity, shea is clearly very important. It is often the principal economic resource over extensive areas where little else saleable can be found or grown. It is the main profit center for the poor.



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