The shea tree is crucial to Soudano-Sahelian peoples and ecosystems. Shea nuts and oil (shea butter) are also one of the few regional commodities whose extraction, processing and commercialization are under the control of women. Owing to the species’ key nutritional, medicinal, economic, ecological and cultural functions, shea has drawn the interest of researchers and advocates for gender equity and sustainable development, who have focused on growing global markets for shea butter to enhance the incomes of impoverished rural women. The result has been a proliferation of shea ‘development projects,’ sponsored by governmental, non-governmental (NGOs) and multilateral institutions. To date, activities pertaining to shea have been characterized by a lack of coordination and of knowledge sharing. Consequently, the multiple role players in the shea sector have had limited access to a wealth of extant knowledge concerning the resource. This paper addresses the main impediments to the transmission of knowledge about shea across the 5000-kilometre shea belt, as well as the role of NGOs in facilitating global market information to shea producers. The efforts of the recently established ProKarité project and of the Table Filière Karité in harmonizing shea-related activities and promoting the species’ valorization are discussed.