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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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Comments

Bp says …

I vote with my dollars, I try to purchase from companies that have good practices--such as Alaffia (I just ordered from them a few days ago), or shop at Whole Foods. I avoid buying products from companies like Proctor and Gamble, who continue to test on animals.

Ann says …

Every person can make an impact. The power of one, multiplies to the power of many. Making a conscious effort to recycle, ingesting organic whole foods, and understanding the impact of the dollar (buying power), have a domino effect on our bodies, community, and the world.

Tanya says …

What an inspirational story. This story shows that we can actually make a difference when we make choices with our buying power. Thank you for sharing and thank you for providing us such lovely and 'powerful' products.

Shelley Quezada says …

Having spent time in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, I know full well how participating in these cooperatives help people be able to work with dignity and support their families. And we are the beneficiaries because any product made with Shea Butter is excellent for your skin. We are fortunate to be able to have access to these products.

Kevin says …

I purchase items that will allow for a healthier me and in turn, this helps bring more harmony to the world around me.

Deborah Brouse says …

I try to purchase from independent craftsmen and farmers when possible; second choice--from small businesses.

Tracey C. says …

Whenever we buy products we consciously look for ones that are produced or grown not only in a way that is good for the environment, but that will also benefit people, while still being produced ethically and with good values. It is great to be able to help communities and "speak" with your your dollars by the purchases you make. It is even better when the products you purchase with these values in mind are actually better than products produced purelly for corporate profits. :)

Martha ODell says …

I really appreciate having products that not only benefit me but others. It's great what the Togolese Communities can do to improve their lives.

Sara says …

I try very hard to make my purchases matter. I only purchase organic paraben-free beauty products. I buy locally, eco-friendly, organic, food products. I've become a more conscious and aware shopper that reads labels and ingredients closely because I believe how a product was made and where it was made matters not only to me but to my community.

~Mrs. Vidal says …

Greetings, and thank you kindly for the opportunity to enter this generous gift basket giveaway. For me, I have been trying to keep abreast of the important consumer-related issues and concerns, and do a lot of online research on companies, brands, products, etc., especially for repeat purchases. All consumers should try their best to do so, in order to make the best possible choices, decisions that would do the most good overall (i.e. spiritual, physical/health/wellness, environmental, humanitarian, poverty/disaster relief, world economy, etc.). I prayerfully do this by reading through current articles, reviews, manufacturer labels, seeking out green/eco-friendly and socially-conscious/socially-responsible companies (particularly cruelty-free/vegan), etc., as well as maintaining and implementing needed changes in our own household, where possible. Examples include: becoming vegans/vegetarians; recycling products; purchasing more locally-grown ingredients and locally-made products, esp. those Made in the U.S.A. (avoiding overseas products as much as possible); purchasing used/recycled items; using reusable shopping bags; digitizing/scanning records and other paperwork; canceling mail subscriptions (and where applicable, reading them online instead); registering with the DMA to cut down on printed junk mail; supporting and recommending good companies (as described previously above); etc.

Terrill says …

I love companies who give back or who are there for the purpose of enabling and equipping. Any time I can purchase from one..I do. I like to ck out company profiles and see their real heart. I raise alpacas to simply give 100% away....to enable and equip and change. Thanks Alaffia

Bonnie Louie says …

I purchase vegan, locally, cruelty-free, and organically and sustainably grown whenever I can. I always look for the organically grown label. More and more, I will not purchase a product if it isn't vegan and organically grown - I'd rather go without.

Julie Ostoich says …

Alaffia products are awesome!!! My purchasing practices create positive change for the world by supporting cooperative & fair trade projects, buying organic & local as much as possible, and using chemical free & reduced packaging/recycled materials when available. Additionally, by being a vegetarian, I am reducing environmental impact: water conservation and pollution from pesticides and animal waste including antibiotics, ocean protection and sea life preservation, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, deforestation (livestock production is responsible for destruction of 70% of the Amazon)...and more. And remember to bring your own bags every time you shop!!! I do.

liz rosenblatt says …

"Changing the world" is my goal. And I can start accomplishing it by choices I make. One being purchasing "Everyday Shea". It's amazing..by helping myself and my body, I am helping so many others....

Daniele says …

I LOVE knowing that when I purchase a product for my family, it contributes to other families and their communities <3

Janet says …

How I'd use my purchases to change the world? It's simple, really. If I'm healthy and happy, that makes me a better member of society and much more likely to pay it forward. I love random acts of kindness. :-)

Megan J says …

I usually buy from companies that don't test on animals, that are eco-friendly and when possible, local if it is affordable. I never realized there were companies selling products I use that also make such a big difference for others in need around the world. Considering I have been through hard times financially over the past couple years, the program your company does in Africa really touches my heart and I will check out your products because of it.

Joetta says …

This knowledge truly brings tears to my eyes, but lets me know that as an individual in the United States taking care of my own basic needs, I can help take care of the needs of others. I am overwhelmed with joy and will continue to use this Alaffia hair conditioner, it's one of the best one's that I've used in a while. I feel good knowing that I can support an entire community and encourage my friends to do the same. Thank you for sharing this story. If there are ways for others to help (i.e. purchasing bicycles), that would be nice to know as well. Thank you.

Laurie says …

I like to buy products healthy for my body and the world.

Catherine says …

I try to buy products that are local and organic to reduce my carbon footprint. I also try to buy fair trade in order to support the subsistence of deserving workers.

Cherie says …

Whenever there is a choice, I choose fair trade, sustainably produced, cruelty free products. I believe that one way we can change things and make the world a better place is to lead by example and to speak through our purchases.

Joan says …

Very impressed with how Wholefoods has their body and soul into charitable causes and goodwill. Because I shop at Wholefoods often, they make it easier for me to give back to the community and the world. I look for products that help me do this, and this is not hard to accomplish since so many purchases available donate some portions to those in need! Thank you Wholefoods!

michelle says …

I try to make conscious vs. unconscious purchasing decisions. Is it fair trade? What do I know about the manufacturer? Does the product contain natural ingredients? Is the packaging recyclable? Am I grateful for my purchases? I like to take the time to savor and enjoy them with all my senses! Being a conscious consumer helps me to really appreciate what I have and support the good works of others. :)

Jenny says …

I started shopping at Whole Foods exclusively a year ago. I like knowing that I am buying real food and contributing to fair trade and real organizations such as this.

Shari Shoemaker says …

I like Alaffia products. I have ezcema and shea butter is a good product for that. I try to buy fair-trade produced and chemical-free items. I like that the products I purchase are not only helping me; they are helping others. Thank you for carrying health products that help others.

CAROL says …

I love the fact that I can buy natural products that I can feel good about using and also help a comunity it is nice to know the money I spend is doing so much good, the best decision my husband and I made was switching to whole foods and buying only organic and natural products.

Marcia Asari says …

I buy local produce through a CSA, buy fair trade products when I can and prepare as many homemade dishes as I can to avoid the convenience food trap with all its extra packaging.

Alison says …

I try more and more these days to purchase products that are local and can benefit others.

Awanda Clark says …

I am only a individual who loves all of your products. Of course if you would ask my husband he would tell you that I purchase your products like a am a store. I have used your shampoo and conditioners and am in love with them. My hair feels wonderful after using them. I have email all of my friends the various store links that sell your products asking them to purchase them or at least give them a try, I doubt very seriously they will be disappointed. I purchase most of my products from Whole Foods or from the Alaffia website. I wish you continued success with your company and many wishes to all the ladies it has and is helping. I love reading the stories. May God's blessings continue to be with everyone. Awanda Clark Arizona USA

Julie says …

researching and educating myself about the products I buy has changed my entire families' perspective. We buy local yet global, in hopes of bettering ours and their communities.

Allison says …

I support workers all over the world by buying certified fair trade products whenever I have the option to do so. I love buying fair trade tea, coffee, grains, sugar, and other items. Alaffia is a wonderful company because it allows me to buy fair trade hair products.

Davida Sara says …

Life: a dance balancing the wisdom of our elders and new technologies. What will nuture us without robbing our Mother Earth that provides Home? Allaffia's path is real balance producing a product which nurture's both the people who work to create it and those who enjoy using it. I am thankful for their committment to Life.

liz says …

I love to support other people,making great products,use these products all the time!

Ellen says …

I try to use my purchases to support social and environmental changes that I want to see in the world- such as fair-trade products, to support labor standards, and organic foods, to reduce workers' exposure to pesticides and the effects of pesticides on the environment. I think projects like this that let us see into the chain of production are great for raising awareness not only of these positive projects, but of what we're supporting when we purchase alternative products where the supply chain is hidden.

Sneeka says …

This is a great article! I like to shop using my own bags. It's smart and environmentally friendly. I use less bags = the store orders less bags (overall) = the factories are producing less bags. I'm only one person, but I believe I can make a difference!

Heather says …

I am thankful that I have the choice and means to buy products ranging from dish soap to personal care - such as body soaps and shampoos - that are not putting chemicals back into our water system. Water is precious commodity we should never take for granted, especially here in Western U.S. We are all aware that water wars for potable fresh water has destroyed other countries, so why should we be so nonchalant about putting chemicals into our own water systems.

Angie says …

AWESOME CAUSE!!! HELPING US AS WE HELP OTHERS

Jaime Rodriguez says …

I believe we, as consumers, are the main force of change. When we decide to purchase goods that make a difference and skip those that harm the earth, communities and ourselves, we all push for conscious production processes with fair trade; industries, small or large will have to listen.

Jenn says …

I shop locally, support local agriculture and fair trade as much as possible!

Melody says …

It's great to know that buying certain products can make such an impact in peoples' lives and communities and that there are people out there working for the good of humanity.

Hadda Acevedo-Delcamp says …

It's amazing how easily we can take for granted our freedom to simple things in order to get ahead in life while these ladies didn't have them before. With a bicycle one girl could go to school and a mom is given a job to support her family. We have to help them in any way we can, and if just by buying Alaffia products, then so be it.

Hillary S. says …

In modern times, when we buy a product, we are sometimes so removed from the manufacturing process that we forget that our purchase puts money into the hands of both its makers and sellers. Each purchase I make, I am also making a choice of where I want my money to go-- who and what I want to support. I try to buy local to help my community. I try my best to avoid companies that don't share my values. When I can buy something I love or need and know that at the same time my purchase is helping to make a difference in the world-- priceless! =)

Amy g says …

Love this! I support organic, fair trade, Eco friendly products for my family and am happy to spread the word on products that help make the world a better place!

Hanna says …

Getting clean and supporting a community...what could be better?

Mary Jones says …

Great positive energy behind this amazing product. Would love to win.

Michelle says …

Thank you for bringing this my attention. On my next visit to Whole Foods, I will look for and buy Alaffia body care products. After reading this article, I know I can make a difference. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Lynnette says …

I have been searching for something to moistuize my dry hair. I have been frustrated with the natural products and the store bought products. I noticed that a lot of African people have pretty skin and shiny hair. I was told that some of them use Shea Butter on their hair and skin. I'm thinking with a lot of the land being devasted and the people lacking the proper nutrition-- this Shea Butter most be fantastic. I'm an African American woman and I want to find something that will work on my hair. So, I'm excited to try Shea Butter from Africa and help the people in this land. Since Africa is in my heritage, this is a logical step for me. I hope I have found the right thing for me. I could add so much more, but I won't. I didn't mean to write this much

mimi says …

I try, within my capabilities, to support fair trade goods, locally farmers/vendors, environmentally sustainable practices, etc. If we all did just a little extra, it would make a world of difference to all of us.

Jessica Justh says …

Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." This is my mantra I live by on a daily basis. Our health and well-being is derived from our consumer choices. I choose to eat vegan, organic and local but it doesn't stop there. Our skin is our largest organ. Therefore we must choose products that are made with quality organic ingredients, using sustainable practices and employ fair business standards to workers. Alaffia not only treats their workers with respect but gives back to the community as well. Their business model is an example how- Together Everyone Achieves More!

Alison says …

I believe I buy less "stuff" than the average American, and I try to support retailers and manufacturers that treat their workers and our planet well.

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