Country: GhanaCurrent Extreme NewsPost-Extreme Lab: Design LabYear: 2020

Lift: Helping Shea Nut Gatherers in Ghana

In Ghana, women traditionally collect shea nuts and carry them home in heavy bowls over long distances on their heads, which puts a strain on their necks, and limits the amount that can be harvested. The shea nuts, once shelled and dried, are stored in the home, and quite literally become the bank account for these families, where some are taken to market and sold whenever the family needs to purchase something  In Design Lab, Team Lift, comprised of two continuing team members from the original 2019 Extreme course, Paola Martinez (B.S. Computer Science ‘19) and Daniela Vainer (B.S. Product Design ‘19), in collaboration with Hamid Adams, a schoolteacher in Ghana, have been working on creating a safer and more efficient way for women to collect the nuts. 


After visiting Ghana and conducting empathy research in five communities, the team found that creating a more durable and comfortable cart that could be built locally for less money, could increase the number of nuts carried for each trip back to the community. The team’s goal was to increase the number of nuts carried per trip by 50%, which would increase income by $36 per person per season, allowing a mother to pay for the annual school fees for three of her children.


During their year in Design Lab, the team tested multiple prototypes with women, facilitated by Hamid, to find a system that could be used without problems on the narrow and bumpy paths to the shea trees. As the women gave their feedback, the team incorporated their ideas into the next iterations.  


Now that Paola and Daniela have graduated from Stanford, the final designs of the Lift cart will be owned by Hamid. As part of a larger shea nut capacity expanding program, he will produce the carts to help shea nut collectors in his local community.   


The original team who worked on the project during the 2019 class was Paola Martinez, Daniela Vainer, Emily Gittins (MBA ‘20), and Ricardo Romero (Earth Systems, ‘20).