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EveryDay Shea Helps Togolese Communities

Read on for a chance to win a gift basket filled with Alaffia body care products. I would like to begin by first expressing my gratitude and thanks to Whole Foods Market and her customers.  At this same time last year, I wrote an overview on how Whole Foods support of our EveryDay Shea line has positively impacted our disadvantaged communities in Togo. I am pleased to report that the impact continues, as was evident during my recent three week trip to Togo to visit our shea butter cooperative and community project sites. However, this trip was also a vivid reminder that we must do more. When I think of the current issues that my continent faces, it is debilitating. All economic indications point to the fact that the continent is deteriorating.  Since my last visit, I can see firsthand that Togo follows this trend: trash and plastic are pervasive throughout the landscape, deforestation and other environmental issues are now more serious than ever, economic disparities are widening, and cost of living is increasing while incomes remain stagnant or decline. In spite of these issues, just as we were the day we founded our organization, we remain determined that the overwhelming issue of poverty cannot intimidate us from honestly attempting to mitigate human suffering in our communities. This leads me to why I am writing to you in the first place – to share with you what has happened during the past year because of your support of EveryDay Shea.  In addition to maintaining the new cooperative members recruited in 2009 and 2010, we were able to collect and distribute over 500 bicycles to encourage young women to stay in school and build our first biogas system to reduce fuel wood use. In addition, we were also able to plant 1,000 trees, and set aside enough funds from sales of EveryDay Shea in 2010 to propagate and plant another 4,000 trees this year. Furthermore, we decided to increase the number of women in our maternal health project from 100 to 400. This means that now 400 women will not become part of the 280,000 that die each year in West Africa from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth.  Finally, we now have recruited another 18 women to join our shea butter cooperative. Because of the extended family structure in Togo, over 200 people will be supported on this income.  All of these accomplishments are a great encouragement for me to continue our efforts. During my trip to Togo, I also had the opportunity to visit with some of the women that joined our cooperative last year and talk with them about changes in their lives since joining the cooperative.  The following are excerpts from our discussions. Zebera Tchagoumi: “My name is Zebera Tchagoumi. Joining the cooperative last year has relieved my worries about how to support my family. I was planning to travel to Niger to work and save money for my children. Now, I don’t have to worry and all my five children are in high school.  I enjoy working at the cooperative, and I like all the different things I get to do each day.  And on market day, I see my friends who are still struggling, and they see a change in me and wish they could join the cooperative as well.  I am very happy to be able to tell all of you how much I appreciate your help, and I hope our efforts become even stronger – to bring more bikes and have more women join the cooperative so they can benefit as I have.” Selifa Ganiou: “My name is Selifa Ganiou, and I joined the cooperative last year.  Before my integration into the cooperative, I moved to Benin to work in the capitol city and was without my children and my husband.  Now, since I am at the cooperative for the last year, I thank God that I find it possible to support the needs of my family. For example, I was able to save the life of my older brother thanks to the money that I make.  I have seven children; four are presently in school.  When the other three were school age, I was not able to live with them and did not have the means to keep them in school.  I would like to thank everyone who supports our cooperative and encourage them to take a strong hand to live happily with their families, like I am able to now that I am with the cooperative and no longer have to travel to find work.” Agnanetou Kadiri: “My name is Agnanetou Kadiri. I have been with the cooperative for over a year now, and have seen a positive change in my life.  I do not have to suffer too much to gain enough for my daily bread.  Before joining the cooperative, I had a small stall at the market, but was never able to save any money. For the last year, thanks to my work, I am able to send my two children to school and each month I add to my savings account at work and save some at home, too.  I am also able to support my mother, who is very old and requires a lot of care.” Ramatou Djelilou: “I am Ramatou Djelilou and I am happy to talk with you.  With the money I earn from the cooperative, I am able to provide for my needs and those of my four children.  Since I began work, I notice that I have more respect from my husband. Thanks to my work, I can pay for my oldest two children to go to school; the other two are not school age yet.  I thank all of our friends in the United States, and hope they continue to support Alaffia so my children can have bicycles to go to school.” In summary, once again I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you; your support has made all of our 2010 accomplishments possible. During this trip, I was often asked if it wasn’t naïve of me to believe that the optimal road for African communities to rise out of poverty is to rely on our traditional knowledge and participating in ethical trade. Many of my fellow Togolese feel that we must follow the footsteps of emerging economies like China and India and rely on heavy industry and technology. In addition to the fact that the earth cannot sustain both the social and environmental degradation the conventional economic model creates, my response has been to show examples of what we have been able to do, and also show the sense of self-worth individuals and communities have from accepting and valuing our cultural heritage and resources. To me, it is more important in the long run that communities and societies can sustain themselves than individuals have quick profit.  In the end, consumers in Western societies, through their choices and consumption patterns, can have great impact on poverty alleviation in producer communities.  I am pleased to say that the past couple years have shown me that our customers and retailers care about alleviating poverty, and this care will ultimately lead to a safer world – not only on the continent of Africa, but in communities around the world. For a chance to win a gift basket filled with Alaffia body care products, enter a comment by February 22nd telling us how you use your purchases to help change the world. One comment will be selected at random to receive an Alaffia gift basket.

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958 comments

Comments

Tina Stauber says …

I always feel my purchases are from a company that gives proper treatment and money to the farmers, and manufacturer of its products. While providing healthy and good tasteing alternative for consumers

Kathy Fleming says …

This is another option for those gifts for others we tend to buy - it is so great when giving something for someone to also have a reminder to them on what you believe

Raj says …

Buying this product i'm suporting following empowerment of women in Togo and worldwide,Reduction of gender inequality by valuing women's indigenous knowledge and skills and providing stable incomes,Providing scholarships and supporting education to enhance opportunities for disadvantaged youth in our communities.Promoting and maintaining fair trade and organic principles Protecting indigenous African knowledge.

Jennifer says …

I make a conscious effort to consider how my purchases affect the economy and the environment. I avoid overpackaging, and I like to buy in bulk and refill containers. I think about the companies I purchase from and how products get to me -- whether across the country or down the street.

Amy D. says …

Whenever possible, I make sure my spending power supports local, eco-friendly, cruelty-free (no animal testing!), and/or sustainably produced products. I feel like I can at least make a small difference by sending the message that to earn my hard-earned dollar, companies need to uphold the standards I believe in. The EveryDay Shea story is a beautiful example of how customers can make a huge difference by choosing products representing compassion.

Jacqueline H. says …

I try to buy fair-trade produced items, locally produced items, and chemical-free items. I have a basket (different colors)like the one pictured, that I use to carry my refillable water bottle, and extra items for the day.

Susie H. says …

I usually buy local, handmade, and/or fair-trade. I love the human connection that seems to be maintained from buying this way.

Shannon Ditto says …

Knowing that a product like this, can help a whole community would defiantly motivate my purchases. Last semester I was a part of a theatre group that did an adaptation of the book 'half the sky', and there were so many little things that we learned that can really help those in need across the world. I think sometimes people give up on trying to help others because "it's so far away', but products like these def bring it closer to home.

Tina Curtis says …

Beauty products = trees planted! Enough said!

Georgina says …

That's a great oportunity to help the most in need that whole foods gives me and i am thankful for that...

dorothy says …

I make a conscious effort to buy from small companies that do good and for gifts I always buy handmade

Christine S. says …

My purchases help others in need. That is what is important.

aneeda mason says …

i love the way it makes my skin feel and how it makes me feel after i use it i feel like a new woman.

Shayla Dougher says …

"We rely on our traditional knowledge." These words that rang out in the passage from Ramatou. I am a proud mother of three and I work with a nonprofit Simple Living Institute here in Orlando FL. I understand what she speaks of. Technology and all the wonders we enjoy because China and India make it available to us releatively inexpensively has it's place in our lives, but it does not deserve all of our focus. "Traditional knowledge" is what sustains us! Having an ability to support this simple and yet far reaching idea with a purchase of a product I would make anyway feels marvelous! Thank you! Teaching my kids how prepare a beautiful meal made from food we have grown together is a tremendous value! I watch my eldest knit items that 'made in China' can't come close to. Do you know how good that feels? Knowing that I have instilled a desire in them to learn these simple things is tremendously satisfying! Utilizing 'traditional knowledge' changes people lives! My nonprofit attracts 100 people every month to our organic grower's meeting because they want to grow tomatoes that taste good. Our permaculture workshops at $1500 a person, have a waiting list. Traditional knowledge is highly valued. It will save our world!

Stephanie says …

Whenever possible, I buy fair trade and local products. Buying local is important to me as I'm trying to reduce my carbon footprint, and get back to more of a cyclical diet.

Jill OConnor says …

We need to support one another, especially those who are in a less fortunate situation than ourselves. As an amimal lover, I am thrilled to get products that are not animal tested.

Julie says …

I love that Whole Foods makes it easier to find local, eco-safe, and fair trade items! The refill/bulk areas are also my favorites.

Shirley says …

I could probably do a lot more, but I try to buy fair trade, minimally packaged products. If I know the product isn't tested on animals, even better.

Katherine H says …

I love Allafia products, and knowing that my purchases make a difference. I use my purchase power to make a difference whenever I can. I buy "gently used", and local as often as possible.

Kimberley W. says …

Wow...an amazing thing you are doing! Motivated me beyond words! Thank you so much for what you are doing to change the world for the better!

Alyssa King says …

I buy as many fair trade products and products that give back to communities in need as I can. My friends and I have started a group to raise awareness about social and economic injustices as well as environmental concerns. We often discuss what products support these efforts and try them out.

Kate says …

While I can't admit to changing the world, I try to support small-scale production locally and abroad. This story is inspiring me to research new product lines that directly link back to the community.

Holly B says …

I am becoming more and more conscious of what I purchase, in terms of how it impacts the environment, and how it impacts people. I am excited to hear what Alaffia is doing and will look for their products in the future.

Sunny Childs says …

It is a testiment to Whole Foods mission that they bring us products like this!

Lynn says …

I was very impressed with the Every Day Shea story. I will definitely buy your products on my next visit to Whole Foods. I will continue to buy locally grown produce and local products that are environmentally friendly or organic.

Ali says …

I purchase fair-trade crafts and food products, by locally grown and organic produce, and utilize only natural home and body products made from recyclable materials.

Lynn says …

I try to buy fair trade and local products whenever possible.

Vicki Olszewski says …

I am excited to learn about these products and share my knowledge as well with others. It is wonderful to know that entire communities can be affected by simple purchase decisions we make in everyday life.

Nadia says …

Purchasing power is an interesting concept that I have thought a lot about. Like some of the other respondents have noted, I also try to buy bulk, avoid excessive packaging and buy fair trade and cooperative products. I also try to stay informed on the political economy of certain everyday products that negatively transform landscapes, the environment and peoples lives. That said, I feel frustration with the fact that our economies our set up that our power is in our purchases. As we can see from our friends in the Togolese cooperative, these women do not have the purchasing power to choose more ethically sound products on the market. I hope that through more just and sustainable projects, the larger issue of resource extraction, manufacturing and human-environmental policies will be transformed so that we have fewer choices to harm the environment and communities through what we buy. Particularly those of us living in the global North. In the meantime, I continue to try to stay conscious of global politics through tracing the impact the products I purchase have on communities and the environment.

Madeleine F. says …

I work with Indian Tribes to develop renewable energy projects on Tribal land and this would be another way that I could feel proud to purchase beauty products and make a real difference in peoples' lives. I am a very conscientious consumer and do my best to purchase fair trade coffee, organic fruits and vegetables from local growers, and frequent my local Farmer's Market. In order for all of us to do our part, it takes comprehensive change in our consumer behavior, an awareness of where our products come from, who makes them, what they are made of, who benefits from our consumption. When we as a country can start changing our behavior, one by one, we make the world a better place for all of us. And you can enjoy beautiful and healthy products that make a profound difference here and across the world, and are good for the environment, too!

Christy S. says …

Have never tried this product and like that this product benefits a community.

Victoria Adcock says …

I attempt to purchase wisely by choosing responsibly. Paying more now, protects future generations quality of life. We are all one. What happens to another, happens to us all. On my email signature I have a tag line added for kiva.org, another great example of paying forward to continue a universe of oneness.

Meg says …

I really like the Alaffia shea-based products I have tried. They are of high quality, and I feel good knowing that my purchases are helping to improve the living standards of our hard working sisters and brothers on the Mother continent while fostering environmental sustainability. I appreciate that Whole Foods is showing the pictures on its website as proof that change is happening. I would love to work with anyone who is interested in making fair trade products such as EveryDay Shea the new Girl Scout cookies of fund-raising.

Brittany Boyer says …

I love this. My new years resolution this year is to be a more conscious and educated consumer, so thank you for the wonderful information :)

Lorraine says …

Whole Foods succeeds in their mission to educate the customer - and my relationship with them has enriched me in countless ways. I discovered how easy it is to learn about the world, about the importance of supporting growth in self-sufficiency, and about shea butter - all from WF. And, for my chemically sensitive skin, shea works so well for me.

Charlotte durnell says …

We can all do our part to help keep ourselves and this earth healthy ... even small steps for each one of us to take are better than none! :)

Mara says …

For me buying locally is so important... not only does it affect local farmers/artisans, it helps reduce carbon imprint of my lifestyle which benefits the entire world!

Ruth Lincoln says …

I especially concerned about the mistreatment of women in Afghanistan. I am eager to make purchases that help and not only for women there but any underprivileged human beings.

Amy Keala says …

Our family does our best to utilize our purchasing power to make smart choices that impact the future of our world and the people in it. It brings me joy to know that by buying the products we use every day will help to better someone elses life. I hope this movement continues to grow.

Rushian Hooper says …

Hello, My name is Rushian Hooper. We are a very blessed family. Our needs are always met and we live a comfortable life. That is a quite a blessing. Our challenges extend to a different nature, but by the grace of God, taking care of our family's needs has never been one of them. A parent's heart toward their children aches when they are unable to supply the needs of their little ones. If there is any way that I perform the simply task of purchasing a product to ensure that a mother and her children feel some security in their lives, then let it be. I will make that purchase gladly and admonish others to do the same.

Beverly May says …

It is said "it takes a whole village to raise a child" But in this case this village has pulled together to raise a new greener Earth! ... And May God Bless them all!! Are we not put on this earth to help one another.. This one is a no-brainer! Absolutely LOVE these products!!! and also Love helping those of us who are willing to help themselves!

Joy says …

I'll do whatever I can to buy products like the Every day Shea line. It not only makes me look good on the outside, but makes me feel good on the inside too, knowing that by my purchases it is helping other communities.

Darcy B. says …

I use my dollars to "vote" on the products with the least packaging. It's better for the earth and it means that I don't have to take the trash out as much :-)

Kate says …

I try to do my part to make the world a better place, however little my contribution may be. I use natural cleaning and health products to minimize pollution in our waterways, recycle and buy products with less packaging. I also frequent my farmers market in the summer to help support local organic farmers. Perhaps the most important step I take is to encourage my preschool students to be aware of the world around them, and help them make a difference.

MARY VAUGHN says …

I enjoy products packaged in recycled or recyclable containers, organic and rain forest protection production techniques ,sustaining shade grown plants.

Nkiruka Chuka-Obah says …

I shop for my family and for the environment. I try to buy products raised in a sustainable fashion. Whenever I cannot, I decide if my family needs it or if it is a luxury. I also research companies I buy from and how their products are produced, in particular, how are they treating their workers, and what is their philosophy. I believe every company should be concentrating on social outreach rather than anything goes profit.

Joy Kjer says …

It is wonderful to have a high quality choice of skin care products that also work towards creating an earth sustainable business and livelihood.

s says …

80% of products I purchase are package-free.

Jennifer Currie says …

What a wonderful program that provides work for people in poverty-stricken areas. I'll look for Alaffia products on my next trip to Whole Foods. I feel better about purchases when I can be assured they are produced responsibly with best practices for both people and the environment. Of course, I appreciate the Whole Foods approach to whole trade items. In Austin I support Ten Thousand Villages, a store devoted to providing fair income to artisans in developing countries by marketing their creations. I also enjoy delicious Nile Valley Hibiscus Mint Tea which sends a portion of profits to help African villages provide schools and clean drinking water to people among other projects.

Nicole says …

I prefer to buy handmade and non-industrial items from people I can see face to face. I believe this can help change the world because it shows that quality goods do not have to be exclusive to the privileged, nor do they need to be cheaply mass-produced to be accessible to every day people.

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