The incorporation of women and their associations into international markets and value chains is proposed increasingly as a development pathway in Sub-Saharan Africa. The underlying assumption is that exclusion of individual women from groups specialized in supplying a single international niche market is the main obstacle to their development. Intervention under this assumption focuses on linking women groups to international business and development organizations (NGOs). To validate this pre-analytical choice, we conducted a case study of a community-level co-operative of women in Mali (COPROKAZAN, Zantiébougou) that collects shea kernels from producers and processes them into butter and then trades the shea butter for the export market. The choices made in this co-operative are exemplary for other women Malian co-operatives involved in the production of shea butter. The strategic direction taken by the co-operative results from developmental interventions that encourage exclusive reliance on the links between the women co-operatives and niche markets in the international cosmetics industry. The case study shifted attention to the capacity of the women co-operatives to link their handling of fluctuations in supply to opportunities in a range of markets. We found that this in turn also opened new opportunities to a growing number of non-members. We then applied concepts drawn from the research literature on shea in West Africa, market fragmentation, competition, and path dependency to reframe our research focus, to examine how the co-operative in fact navigated this more complex development pathway through co-ordination at group and sector level. The study concludes that a focus on the provision and use of working capital, a strategic priority identified within the studied co-operative, opens new perspectives on what types of institutional arrangements enable the inclusion of a larger number of women in the sourcing of kernels.