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Alaffia Cooperative in Togo

By Olowo-n'djo Tchala, November 6, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Olowo-n'djo Tchala
This post comes to us from Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Founder of Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care. Olowo-n’djo grew up in poverty in Togo, Africa, and has dedicated his life to empowering communities in Africa. Here, Olowo-n’djo writes about his most recent trip to Togo. I would like to begin by thanking all of you that have either directly or indirectly supported us and made our projects possible. It is clear that without your support, our commitment to bettering lives in Togo would not be possible. My main intentions for this post are to thank all of you for your support and to take the opportunity to tell you about my most recent trip to Togo and Ghana. Son of Alaffia cooperative member dances as part of ceremony honoring the cooperative and its efforts in central Togo communities. This was a deeply emotionally challenging trip, primarily due to the state of human condition and a testing of my commitment. Two weeks before I left for Togo on September 3, 2008, Togo was hit with major monsoon rains. The flooding that followed displaced more than 20,000 families, destroyed countless fields, and washed out a large bridge on the main north-south road – cutting off supplies and fuel to Togo and countries to the north. Escalating fuel and food costs had already put a strain on local economies, and these floods have made it even more difficult for families to feed themselves. With food a primary concern, families are not able to even think about the expense of sending their children to school. Before the huge increases in fuel and food prices, school was already a huge expense for the majority of Togolese families. Now, it has become even more difficult for them. Line of vehicles waiting to pass over temporary bridge put up after flood waters destroyed the main bridge on Togo’s north-south highway. Seeing the devastation in Togo caused by a combination of natural and economic disasters has only strengthened my resolve to improve conditions in my communities. The recent global economic crisis has only increased my commitment to continuing our community empowerment projects, since the impact is greatest on the world’s poorest. I scheduled my visit to Togo in September to coincide with the arrival of the three containers of bicycles that we shipped in July. However, upon my arrival, the shipping company informed me that the containers had been delayed. They finally arrived after I had already returned to the U.S. This changed the focus of the trip to our education and health projects. With the help of the cooperative members, we built and donated table-benches to three extremely impoverished schools, donated school supplies to over 100 families in flood-affected areas, and visited the 40 women who are recipients of this year’s Fousena Fund for prenatal care. We also decided to sponsor a teacher for one village who had come together to build a school, but could not afford the salary for a teacher. Olowo-n’jdo Tchala with the school and government officials at Koloumi for desk donations. As part of our follow-up and to prepare for the arrival of this year’s bicycles, we met with past and future recipients of bicycles. The chief of Kinizao, one village that received bicycles from our previous shipment, remarked that teenage pregnancy is down in his village since girls were given bicycles. Students, too, read letters of appreciation for the bicycles, explaining how the bikes have helped them to continue and excel in school. One great positive of this trip to Togo was to see how the Alaffia shea butter cooperative has empowered its members and their communities. Even in this time of economic difficulty, the cooperative members are able to feed their families, pay for school, and continue saving in their microcredit program. We were honored with a ceremony put on by over 15 villages – where cooperative members, village chiefs and community members expressed their thanks with dances and speeches. We are continually receiving requests to set up cooperatives in other areas of Togo, and met with various organizations producing handicrafts, coffee, and other indigenous goods. We hope to incorporate some of these into Alaffia in the near future. During his visit, Olowo-n’djo met with this year’s recipients of the Fousena fund prenatal care. These community projects continue only with the financial support of Alaffia customers and retailers who purchase Alaffia products. With each purchase, you directly support the salaries and empowerment of the members of our cooperative as well as our community projects. Some of you have also donated directly for special projects, especially for our donations to families affected by the September floods. Recipient of school supplies donated by Alaffia. Over 20,000 families were forced from their homes by monsoon flooding in September. Flood waters were receding, but the destruction was still evident. Thank you very kindly for these donations and your continued support of our products. I plan to return to Togo within the next six months for the distribution of the bicycles, and I will bring you more updates then. Peace, Olowo-n’djo Learn more about how fairly traded, handcrafted Shea Butter benefits the communities that produce it as well as the communities that purchase it.
Category: Field Reports

 

4 Comments

Comments

Sherman says ...
Alaffia Shea Butter Artisanship This is an awakening time in our world and I recognize the positive community "fair trade" support is growing enlightening sustainable well being in our World. With integrity and a philosophy that shows opportunity well received and freedom from poverty. While carrying on the long tradition of Indigenous African Culture on the Sahara Shea Belt thru empowerment to all people. Thank-you Olowo-n'djo and Rose for your persisitance and Abganda Karite for your hope and passion to share a dream.
11/07/2008 3:15:56 AM CST
David Goldman says ...
I have the distinguished pleasure of knowing Olowo-n'djo and Rose, as well as observing and participating in their operations both in the U.S and in Togo. Their committment to improving the human condition and seeking socio-environmental justice can be seen in their phenomenal work ethic. The communities that benefit from Alaffia/Agbanga's efforts participate directly in shaping their own futures, and are therefore empowered with the ownership of their dreams and ambitions. This model for development is very worthy of replication, and also serves to raise awareness in the communities where Alaffia's customers live.
11/07/2008 5:56:04 PM CST
Natalie H. says ...
Dear Olowo-n'djo Tchala, Rose, and Alaffia, I just wanted to say thank you so much for starting your business and selling/creating your lotions. I have battled eczema since I was a small child, and it became so painful a little over two years ago, I could barely use my hands. No other lotions worked. A dermatologist recommended a steroid cream, but I wanted a healthier alternative. One day I discovered your unscented shea lotion, and my hands started to heal. To this day, my hands are healthier than they have ever been. They are no longer in pain, and they do not crack and bleed. I am also glad that as a business, you contribute to solving issues that plague Togo. This sets a wonderful example for other businesses to follow. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your lotion has changed my life in a big way. Sincerely, Natalie H.
12/07/2008 11:46:34 PM CST
Jeni Dineen says ...
Impressive blog post you have hereabouts. I hadn't given due consideration this.
07/26/2011 6:59:57 PM CDT