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Everyday Shea Helps West Africans Every Day

Alaffia1Olowo-n'djo Tchala is the Founder and Director of Alaffia. In appreciation for our customers supporting their mission, he asked if they could please give away a lovely gift basket along with this blog post. Of course! So, given that February is Whole Trade Month here at Whole Foods Market and Alaffia is one of our wonderful Whole Trade vendors, enter a comment below by February 22, 2010, telling us what you like best about purchasing Whole Trade products. (Need a reminder about the benefits? Check out this Whole Trade Month post.) We'll select one comment at random to win the Alaffia gift basket. Alaffia: Empowering Women and Preserving Cultural Knowledge in West Africa through the Fair Trade of Handcrafted Shea Butter. AssibiRahamatouDjalilou In 2003, my wife and I founded Alaffia with the sole objective of using traditional knowledge to empower individuals and communities in West Africa. We formulate skin care products with shea butter handcrafted by our women's cooperative in Togo. Sales from these products provide direct economic opportunities for the most disadvantaged women in central Togo and also fund community empowerment projects in our local communities. In late 2008, due to the global economic slowdown, we created EveryDay Shea in order to continue employing the 300 Alaffia Cooperative members in Togo. The Alaffia Cooperative is the first stable employment these women have ever had, and for the past five years they and their families have relied on the income they receive from the cooperative. While the economic slowdown is painful to many families in the West, SalifatouGaniou it is even more difficult for individuals and families in poorer countries who already live on the edge. EveryDay Shea is our value line of fair trade certified 32 oz shea butter body and hair care products that retail under $14. Our nationwide introduction of EveryDay Shea in January 2009 was made successful by the support of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market is our largest customer and their willingness to retail EveryDay Shea had an immediate impact on our shea butter cooperative. The demand for shea butter that it created enabled us to maintain membership, and we even added members for the first time in five years. In May 2009, we added four experienced shea butter crafters, and in July, we recruited an additional five young members. YinaZiberaTchagouni To me personally, the addition of the five young women to the cooperative is the most meaningful achievement of EveryDay Shea. Adding young people to the cooperative means that they will learn traditional knowledge and crafts, which are vanishing throughout the West African savanna. Most young people in our communities no longer value traditions and cultural knowledge due to the impact of economic and cultural globalization. I strongly believe that maintaining traditional crafting is not only sustainable, but is the greatest opportunity that African communities have in getting out of poverty. For instance, like the majority of African women born prior to 1960, my mother cannot read or write in any western languages. AdjaratouKadiriTherefore, my mother and her peers are excluded from the economic system. However, if we consider their traditional crafting knowledge as economically valuable, then their skills are useful to the system. Valuing the skills of these women allows them to provide for their families, which provides a sense of self independence as they are no longer forced to rely on outside aid for survival. Furthermore, African states are not industrialized. In fact, they should not become industrialized in the model of the United States, Europe, and now Asia. The only sensible option for us is to focus on our traditional knowledge and indigenous resources embedded with moral trade practices. This paradigm can only be realized with a distribution platform for these traditional crafts and resources. In Alaffia's case, Whole Food Market provides an important opportunity by making our traditionally based products available to the public. coop-smeverydayshea My experience being born and raised in abject poverty in central Togo and my interactions with various societies around the world have convinced me that reducing poverty and bringing about gender equality in West Africa can only be achieved through trading African resources at fair value. The impact of EveryDay Shea, from the response of our customers in the United States to the effect on our cooperative in Togo, strengthens my conviction that it is possible for poor communities to become self sustaining without the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Alaffia-Gift-Basket

Don't forget to enter your comment for a chance to win an Alaffia gift basket.

By February 22, 2010, tell us what you like best about purchasing Whole Trade products. (Need a reminder? Check out this Whole Trade Month post.) We'll select one comment at random to win the Alaffia gift basket. Photo References: Alaffia Founder Olowo-n'djo Tchala with new Alaffia Cooperative Members, August 2009. Alaffia Cooperative Member Assibi Rahamatou, May 2009 Alaffia Cooperative Member Salifatou Ganiou, May 2009 Alaffia Cooperative Member, Yina Zibera Tchagouni, May 2009 Alaffia Cooperative Member Adjaratou Kadiri, May 2009 And the winner is... (announced 02/23/10):
Jackie L: I like that the products provide the opportunity for less advantaged people groups to have a job and skill that enables them to provide for their family in some way. I’m glad that Whole Foods doesn’t just go with the huge corporations, but touches the world with support.

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1612 comments

Comments

Kelley Taylor says …

I can't wait to try this! Looks awesome!

Lucie says …

I prefer to buy Whole Trade Products because I feel like I'm closer to the resource like that; I feel closer to the people, closer to the harvest, closer to the real origine of the product. I feel the hands of the workers. I feel like I am thanking them personaly for their work when I buy their product. Lucie

Jean says …

A few years ago I found Whole Foods Market, what a blessing that was. You see I have a daughter, who suffers from Tourette syndrome as well as many food allergies and then we found out she was allergic to everything artificial. Before finding your store I had to read every label and go to many different stores, just to find a few things she could eat. Whole Foods made my life so much easier. I no longer had to read all the labels, I could just go in and buy our food. It is such a pleasure. Even after ten years and my daughter out of the house, I still go to Whole Foods. I can only go every six weeks or so, since it is a day long adventure. You see, I live in Yucca Valley, Ca and drive all the way to Tustin, Ca. A couple of hundred miles everytime. But Whole Foods has been such a blessing for me and I really do appreciate your store. So I would like to say, "THANK YOU" for making my life more enjoyable and more healthy. Jean

Patti says …

I love that I know someone is not being taken advantage of in the creation of something that I can personally live without. It is so unfair to demoralize and use people to create something so trivial for our society.

Sabrina Frazier says …

There is no greater voice to be heard than to speak in the marketplace with our dollars!

Rhonda says …

I think about my own two little ones, and how my choices can bring some small relief to another mama in the world. Knowing this makes the choice to buy Whole Trade a no-brainer!

Lisa morales says …

I am sorry to say that I have only just recently become aware of how and where I spend my money makes an impact on this planet and/or the lives of others. Purchasing fair trade products enables me to do my part in helping others that are often out of sight, out of mind. It makes me feel good to know they are receiving a fair price and not being taken advantage of.

David Christian Hamblin says …

I love purchasing whole trade products. There is a deep feeling of compassion for the world that connects us through products being bought in a WHOLE trade situation. I want to help others through-out the world and from where I live I can do so through this method. We are all connected to something bigger and this is one way to honor that connection... BUY WHOLE TRADE today and feel that moment of oneness- generating a positive global wave of JOY.

Tina says …

I'm always teaching my children to "play fair". That's exactly how I think of fair trade, it's playing fair. If the tables were turned I would want a fair price for my goods. I am reminded of the book Under The Lion's Paw by Garland. To benefit at the expense of someone feeling trapped and having to provide for their family is unconscionable. I want my children to know that I don't just talk to them about playing fair, but I play fair myself. And this is why I love Whole Trade. I trust that in buying this label, everyone is playing fair.

Luke Swantek says …

I love knowing that there is respect for life behind these products. I like knowing that I am supporting people, not hurtful corporations.

Kelly says …

I think that this work you are doing is wonderful. I used to live in Olympia and had friends that helped out at Alaffia. I loved supporting the bs=business when I was locally there and was excited to see Alaffia products at my midwest Whole Foods recently.

Cristi says …

I couldn't pick just one thing as my favorite. I love that I know the whole trade products I am getting are of the highest quality and better for my family and for the environment. Above all, I am happy that whole trade seeks to help better the lives of workers just like Olowo-n’djo Tchala who might not otherwise be treated fairly!

Bimini says …

I am so grateful to Whole Foods for supporting West African women and not exploiting them. In this world of max profits and tops sales, it's very rare to hear of companies who actually appreciate countries where their skills of harvesting nature is so very important to their culture. It is one of the many reasons why I shop at Whole Foods and will continue to do so.

Mark Johnson says …

~I would love to see the cycle of poverty "wiped out" in my lifetime, and support any product and or project that helps people to make a life where they thrive.

Heidi Niemczyk says …

Purchasing the Whole Trade products allows me to "vote" for this WONDERFUL program. I know I'm receiving better than the best WT quality product there is to offer, and at the same time I'm helping to support the individuals, their families and communities. Any chance I get, I'm educating my family and friends on the many reasons to purchase Whole Trade certified. Thank you all for the wonderful shea/Alaffia products....my favorite is the coconut scent :) Heidi XOXO

Megan says …

What I like about Whole Trade is the "unindustrialized" aspect, as mentioned in the article. PEOPLE making the products, caring about what goes in and what comes out.

Megan S says …

Such a beautiful story and reason to purchase from Whole Foods. It's wonderful to find economic value in skills. It encourages a resource based trade economic system instead of a monetary based economy. And how wonderful for the ladies to be able to support their families and be able to be so close to the earth with their products.

Mina says …

I love the fact that it helps communities become self-sustaining and provides an honest income.

Z Zazhinne says …

What's best is knowing that I'm giving value to the makers of the value I am receiving and its a win-win-win situation. Having travelled the world in my youth and seen for myself how often what we in industrialized countries take for granted is simply taken with no consideration for the people it's taken from in other parts of the world, I LOVE Whole Foods Whole Trade programs. Buying Whole Trade products lets me feel like a conscious caring neighbor in a global community. Thank you for making the global community stronger with this work. Thank you for educating us about each other and for making it possible for people who WANT to trade value for value to do so:)

Cecelia Mowry says …

Good for your body, good for the environment and good for communities. That is what is nice about Whole Trade products.

Bernadette D. says …

I love "Everyday Shea" because it is giving woman economic opportunities which empowers them, I love that young woman are being brought in to carry on traditional crafting which is so important because we are losing so much of the really important knowledge and values through technology.

Catherine Stafford says …

I agree that it is very heart warming to know the story behind the products that we buy however the main reasons I buy Everyday Shea is that it is AFFORDABLE and not toxic. I have health challenges and raising sons on my own...every cent counts for me. Thank you,thank you.

Meredith Clark says …

Knowing that I can help make a difference, no matter how big or small, in another wonderful human being's life, is priceless. This isn't just another random purchase, it is a step in making OUR world a special place to exist. Do good today!

Katie says …

What a wonderful write-up! Thank you for all of the work that you do! I am very thankful for the opportunity to purchase fair trade products and will continue to do so as long as I am able. :)

Briana D says …

I love Whole Foods for a multitude of reasons. They have such a huge variety of all the products I need, from fresh, organic produce to skin care and cosmetics. I recently made the switch to all natural products as well as organic foods, because of the growing concern for my health and well being. Whole Foods is a one stop shop for me in this manner. I like that I can get everything I need for a great price under one roof. It's wonderful for the rest of my family as well. For instance, my sister is allergic to wheat, and your store has a fabulous range of gluten-free products that can't be found anywhere else, or at least you would have to drive all over creation to get it. Not to mention, I actually use Alaffia myself. Their shampoos and conditioners keep my extremely dry and curly hair moisturized and in excellent condition, and I love that I'm helping support people across the world by buying these products. Thanks Whole Foods!

devon says …

Thanks for making this available whole trade makes great products and it looks like the ladys who make it enjoy thier work. Glad to buy a product like that.

Liz says …

I will check these out the next time I'm shopping at Whole Foods. Thanks for the info!

Moni says …

I always buy your whole trade coffe and is so good!! Now I'll trie other whole trade product. If we can help with just a little that help me feel better

carrie c says …

what i like BEST about whole trade products is that they are helping people be treated more fairly. it's sad that governments and corporations think it's okay to take advantage of people who are in a difficult situation. hopefully, more people will realize that regular individuals are the most important catalysts. we can help make a difference by supporting whole trade products.

ESomleva says …

Each day I am getting more and more conscious about what I eat and what I put on my body. But not only...I want to know that the product I am using it's not only good for me, but also that it isn't harmful to the others...That is fair!!!

Mary Ann Reynolds says …

Living in integrity with the earth and each other. Honoring our cultures and sharing. Creative solutions. With Whole Trade, everyone wins.

Jonique says …

I had no Idea that Alaffia made Everyday Shea! I've enjoyed the Alaffia line and look forward to trying more of their products. These beautiful women make superior shea butter!

Heather McDonough says …

I love knowing that my purchase, besides being a great, natural product, is helping people thousands of miles away to have better lives.

Carolyn McEvoy says …

Because I know so little about where the products I purchase come from-- I wholeheartedly welcome and support whole trade---especially when I know that the product does not harm any animals--and I know that my purchase goes toward supporting the hard work someone has put forth. It's a solution more of the world needs to participate in.

Marybeth Mank says …

I love the idea that these women are learning how to support themselves and their families. I also love the idea that their knowledge is NOT being lost from generation. I whole-heartedly wish the rest of this globe worked the way that this cooperative worked. Thanks for the warm fuzzies from this story. This wonderful coopertative is in my thoughts and prayers. :-)

michelle says …

Buying Whole Trade makes me feel like I am empowering other communities and putting my money into something that I believe in. Knowing that purchasing Whole Trade products is helping to give workers fair wages and possibly giving them a better life makes me feel like my purchases are doing something positive.

MandiFran says …

I like purchasing Whole Trade products because it serves as my vote need to let others know that I acknowledge the hard and honest work of others. I like knowing that the people who care and do the work actually receive the benefit of their labors. I am in love with shea. I use it to moisturize my naturally curly hair and my skin from head to toe! It is also a natural sunscreen when unrefined. Africans have used it for ages and we are lucky to experience its benefits. I cannot wait to visit Whole Foods and try this brand.

Samantha says …

I LOVE Alaffia products! They've been a great find for my sensitive skin. And to know there is such a laudatory backstory makes me feel even better.

Morgan says …

I love using my buying power to create new economic paths for the developing world.

Portia Early says …

What you are doing gives me tears of joy. I used to work for The Body Shop and was a bit saddened by the buyout. Lauder is still using fair trade, but is using parabens. It's refreshing to see someone go the extra mile like Anita the original owner of The Body Shop did.

lisa m says …

I will look for these next time I’m shopping at Whole Foods. Thanks for telling their story.

yvonne says …

What I love about Whole Trade products is the knowledge that purchasing them actually makes a meaningful difference in people's lives. The fact that they are of exceptional quality is great, too.

Annie says …

A wonderful post! Very inspiring...keep up the wonderful work Alaffia!

Jill Gehin says …

I purchase Alaffia products at Whole Foods often...my recent and best disvovery of all is that neem oil has helped my eczema! This is one of the few products that has ever given me relief! I will say I feel every product I have tried of this brand is exceptional...The fact that the products are fair trade is a big selling point for me. I feel good about buying them for that reason. Wonderful products doing wonderful things in so many ways...what more could you ask for?

Mary C says …

I bought Everyday Shea after a quick glance at the ingredients and the price - it's a great value and a great product. While waiting for my son to finish his bathtub play one day I read the label and discovered how buying this fabulous lotion helps to benefit women and communities in West Africa - a huge plus and the reason it is now our favorite and only body lotion.

nate says …

Love buying stuff that help others to!

shenandoah cute says …

These amazing women in Togo have broken the barrier and proven that their traditional crafting knowledge has purely become a trusted economically valuable resource, trusted by Whole Foods, so trusted by me.

Kristina says …

I love buying whole trade and knowing that my money is directly supporting the source. Large corporations have overshadowed so many with their greed, it's great to give back to those communities of hard workers that truly need and deserve it.

Suzanne K. says …

I use Everyday Shea . . . well, everyday! I love the product even more now that I see the women that are behind something I enjoy so much and wouldn't want to do without. Big hugs and thanks to all of them!

Janna Pieler says …

It's important to me to buy whole trade products because everyone should get a fair wage for their hard work. Buying whole trade products helps the world to progress and provides everyone with a fair chance to make a good life for themselves. It gives people the independence, wellbeing, and dignity that everyone deserves.

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