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Alaffia: Body Care that Empowers Women

AlaffiaOlowo-n’djo Tchala is the Founder and Director of Alaffia. Alaffia is a US-based company that makes body care products using shea butter sourced from West Africa. Fair Trade by IMO, Alaffia is committed to making sure employees and suppliers receive better wages and working conditions. In addition, Alaffia gives back in so many ways to the African community in Togo.

Alaffia is offering a special gift to one of our lucky readers. Read on. UPDATE: Thank you to everyone that entered. Congratulations to our randomly chosen winner, Brenda C.!

Dear Whole Foods Market customers,

I would like to share with you the impact that your purchase of Alaffia skin and hair care products are bringing to communities in West Africa. With a simple purchase you are helping the cause of gender equality and empowering women in disadvantaged communities. And most importantly, you are helping preserve the dignity of our communities because the benefits come from their own efforts, not from handouts. This is the true process of empowerment.

How We Began

Before I start, I would like to share with you a brief history of Alaffia. It began when I met my wife, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in my home country of Togo in 1996. When I joined her in the US shortly afterward, I came with only a 6th grade education. With the humbling opportunity to continue my education that America provided me, I studied hard and made it to the University of California, Davis when I earned my Bachelor of Science degree. It was around this time, in 2003, that I realized that my communities in West Africa did not need handouts to rise out of poverty, they needed to be compensated a fair price for their resources and knowledge. Women like my mother who cannot read or write need to have the opportunity to participate in the economic process.

The Growth of a Cooperative

With this conviction, I returned home to Togo and established a women’s cooperative to produce shea butter following traditional methods. AlaffiaIn 2003, we began with 50 women, and today Alaffia provides for more than 500 women cooperative members and more than 4,000 families that collect shea nuts. These numbers are possible, in part, because of Whole Foods Market customers. It was not until 2006 when Whole Foods Market began carrying Alaffia body care products that we were able to substantially increase the membership at our cooperative.

In addition to increasing membership at the co-op, we have also greatly increased our support of the people collecting shea nuts. Shea nuts are collected by the poorest communities and individuals in Togo. For the past 100 years, collectors have been forced to accept whatever price they are offered for their resource. Our fair trade price and training programs are proving opportunity and advancement to women in our communities.

Last December, during my visit to Togo, I was honored to meet and speak with Amama Amadou, the president of the Bowouda Shea Nut Collective. “Before coming to buy shea nuts, Alaffia invited us to give the market price, and then Alaffia added 20% to this price. Everyone received her own receipt and money for her own nuts. We sold over seven tons of shea nuts to Alaffia, and together we have saved over 400,000 fcfa ($1,000 US),” Ms. Amadou shared. She continued, “In the past, we got paid little by little for each bowl that we had. Today, the buying process is organized, and everyone gets their whole payment at once. I thank you and I plead you to continue your support in our village in order to reduce poverty. This year, thanks to the 20%, every one of us has paid the school fees for our children. We thank you very much for the support you have given to the women of Bowouda. You will be blessed for your efforts.”

Our Maternal Health Project

Furthermore, your purchases enable Alaffia to conduct our many important community projects, including our bike, schools, reforestation and gender equality projects. But I am most touched by our maternal health project, and most critically, our project concerning female genital mutilation. It is a sobering fact that if Alaffia had not funded prenatal care for 700 women last year, at least 44 mothers would have died.

AlaffiaOne of the women we supported is Hodalo Katakouna. Hadoalo and her husband are farmers with four children. They have a tiny two-room house made of mud bricks. Hodalo shares one room with her husband and children and her elderly mother lives in the second room. Hodalo’s firstborn was paralyzed during birth. She lives 30 km from the nearest health clinic and with only a bicycle she was not able to reach the clinic in time for a safe birth. Similarly, her second child is mentally disabled due to lack of oxygen during birth. Last year, Hodalo participated in the Alaffia maternal health program — which among many services includes covering health care costs, supplying clinics with sterile medical equipment and providing transportation to patients — and she now has a healthy baby girl.

What touched my heart is not just her healthy baby, her big smile, and her many expressions of gratitude despite her hardships. It was also her story of how she had only one set of clothing which she wore to the farm and market and washed at night. With Alaffia supporting this pregnancy, she was able to save enough money to buy a second outfit for the first time in five years.

Now in our 10th year, it is clear to me that with the opportunity Whole Foods Market gives us to make our product available, we can truly lead our communities out of poverty while providing healthier products for families in America. While I know that poverty alleviation and economic justice will not be achieved during our lifetime, I know that fair trade is a path for disadvantaged communities to get out of poverty.

I feel it is our duty and our calling to build on the freedoms that many before us have fought and given their lives for and we can add to the human journey in the hope that future generations can build on what we do, so that one day all people and countries will live in peace.

I humbly thank you for your continued caring and support.

In appreciation of our customers’ support of Alaffia’s mission, Olowo-n’djo is giving away a handwoven African grass basket filled with Alaffia products -- worth about $140! -- to one of our lucky readers. Just tell us about your favorite Alaffia product and why you love it, in the comments below. If you haven't tried Alaffia yet, tell us why buying from a company with a larger mission is important to you. Leave your comment by Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12 to be entered to win.

Do you have a favorite Alaffia product, tell us about it or share how Alaffia's mission resonates with you.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Promotion ends May 12, 2013, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

 

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259 comments

Comments

sharadawn says …

I have made body care purchases at Whole Foods & was looking to learn about more products, and came across this article. I have watched the PBS documentary A Walk to Beautiful and am familiar with the devastating challenges discussed here. To learn that a company's efforts extend to helping build communities up is wonderful, and I will be happy to participate as a consumer my next visit to WF. I am so inspired by Alaffia's mission! When there is the opportunity to make purchases that support goodness, how can one not?

Maggie says …

I had not heard of Alaffia before reading this blog post. What a great company! It is heartening to read that the nut collectors are getting a fair price. I have never heard of a company funding prenatal care before - that is such a significant contribution to the community. I just checked out their product line and I would love to try the Vanilla Mint shampoo.

Alison says …

I like their huge bottle of unscented lotion.

Alison Braidwood says …

Alaffia appeals to me because it's not just a big conglomerate focused on making as much money as possible, and with no regard for the environment. And maternal health is a subject too long avoided by the world.

jeff summers says …

What a great idea and concept that I am glad has found success. The basket is beautiful.

Juls says …

Alaffia sounds great! I prefer buying products when the company uses the money to create positive change.

Karen Thaeter says …

This is a wonderful giveaway thank you

Brenda Witherspoon-Bedard says …

Alaffia sounds like a wonderful company. I love that they funded prenatal care for 700 women last year. Cheers to them!!!!!

Aaron says …

Alaffia sounds great! Its always better to buy products from a company that creates positive change.

Alice says …

Welcome! -- I support Fair Trade and sustainable business practices and look forward to trying out Alaffia's products, both for myself and to give to those I love. .

Kristen says …

This is exciting because I've been buying a lot of these products completely unaware of this awesome mission behind it. I love the everyday shea products for their great scents and lack of harshness. Keep up the great work!

Lynne Swirsky says …

I am very interested in learning about these products as they are new to me. I will come in to see what might appeal to me for my skin type. Thank You for bringing this to my attention. I applaud their progressive community outreach.

jessica c says …

i love their hand soaps, especially the vanilla mint

Treva says …

I love the coconut lotion not only because its economical but also because of it's simple ingredients & it can be used by the whole family!

Ann says …

Alaffia's mission resonates with me. I donate to organizations that promote women's health and independence in Africa. I feel strongly that by making women financially independent and giving them access to good health care, the quality of life for all Africans will improve. I will purchase Alaffia products for myself and for gifts. Thank you for sharing Olowo-n'djo's compelling story!

Jennie Dean says …

This is a great story! These products definitely look like something I would enjoy trying. I love the mission and outreach of this company.

Karen W Salisbury says …

My favorite body wash with the African Black Soap, especially in the summer. Your skin is nice and soft w/o having to put lotion on and so refreshing. Also love that I can use it on face and hair for when I have to take my "econo" showers in my busy schedule. <3

Awanda F Clark says …

The Shea and Virgin Coconut Enriching Hair Lotion is one of my favorites in the Alaffia line of products. I always make sure to have an extra bottle on hand. It keeps my hair moisturized and so pretty. This is one product I don't want you to ever stop making!! I didn't see it at Whole Foods the last time I needed some, so I ordered from the Alaffia website. I've used it with relaxed and now natural hair!

Sara romero says …

I like all their products.

Liana Grant says …

my favorite product is the body wash because it leaves my skin so smooth and silk

ana hentze says …

awesome products

Kristen says …

I would like to try one of your products. I support co-ops and admire you for returning home and helping others to succeed on their own.

M G says …

I love the Everyday Shea body lotion for me and for my baby. Love the hair gel, because it adds hold and most importantly moisture in one product! I also love the Africa's secret multipurpose skin cream. Thank you for helping people and giving us great products with great value.

Trisha Allen says …

Why buy another product in the states full of alcohol and wax? Serving only the bottom line of some of our too major company's as is? I look forward to trying these and the many others that are available to people who care how another culture lives and makes the world a better place to be in both near and far.

Sarah C says …

I feel good about helping woman all over the world I think it's important as a woman to support other woman even if it is by doing something as little as purchasing a product! I'm sure in the bigger picture it impacts them greatly!

Kristin Oleksinski says …

we love alaffia bodywash! great value and moisturizing!!

Kat O. says …

I love Alaffia shea butter creme and the unscented coconut body lotion. They are my after-bath staples! And the company itself is wonderful.

Stephanie Holderread says …

so cool! love africa.

Ellen Wexler says …

I had not even heard of Alaffia until today. I am looking so forward to trying their products. I make a concerted effort to "live lightly" and to use local, cruelty-free products. Really looking forward to supporting Alaffia's mission. Thank you for the chance to win such a wonderful prize.

Julie Doherty says …

I love to try new products and being able to give gifts with a meaning or purpose. One year I purchased items for my co-workers that helped to support animals that needed food and with their gift I enclosed a card explaining to them that with that purchase it helped to give 150 bowls of food for animals that were in shelters. This would be a terrific gift because it not only allows us to try products from another country and other cultures, but also to be able to help to feed other people. What an incredible gift to give to another person. A gift of something to pamper themselves, but also letting them know that this gift is also helping another person. I am a firm believer of "paying it forward". Gifts with meaning are the best gifts to receive. It's not just about one person, it's about helping others. There is no gift on earth that is better than that. I've learned from my own struggles that help with coupons, I am able to get some really great deals or free items. I do not clear shelves, but I was able to help a dear friend of mine obtain food and household items for her and her son on just my budget along with paying my own bills. It makes me feel good to be able to help another. This is the kind of product I would enjoy paying for, knowing that my purchase is going to help another person or people.

Annie Pasikov says …

I've met many Africans and am always amazed at their "attitude of gratitude" for the small things in life that we who are much better off take for granted. Life in Africa, especially making a living, is difficult. I salute all who are being resourceful to better their lives, their family's and those around them. I haven't tried any Alaffia products (among the sea of items on our shelves) but now that I know what is behind the company, I will. Best to all involved!

mountain girl says …

I have never tried Alaffia products, but their mission resonates strongly with me. I would love to try their products!

Susan S. says …

Just today I finished a sample of Shea Butter Cleansing Milk. I was able to squeeze out enough for 5 washings and noticed the improvement of my aging skin. I had a friend comment earlier today that my skin looked better than ever during the time she's known me. Finally, this evening as I was using the last bit of my sample I realized this must be the reason my skin looked so good. I love the feel and the scent of the product. It was my intent to buy this product as my new choice of facial cleansers and now reading the history of the company I feel proud to be able to do so. Thank you for your healthy products.

Juliann Goldman says …

I finally finished up my HUGE bottle of Alaffia lotion and I need to buy some more. I am a hard customer to please when it comes to lotions. The Alaffia shea lotion was great. I was so happy that my skin was happy and I was helping out a great company.

Diane says …

Sounds like a great company and looking forward to trying some of the products. I would rather purchase from a fair trade company such as Alaffia, with their committment of doing good for the community.

Donna Gilbert says …

The African Black Soap product is my family's new favorite! We use it for shampoo, shaving lotion and body soap. It is awesome!

Leigh Ann Garrett says …

I've not heard of Alaffia until this! Love seeing women rise to their power & different levels of success, many who others thought would never occur. Bravo! My heart is with helping other women and the organization I work for has a mission of 'helping women succeed everyday.' I love seeing others out this not action and make something for themselves and others. Can't wait to try these products soon!

Jennifer says …

I am devoted to Alaffia's line of coconut products. The shampoo, conditioner and lotion are lovely and my children and I use them daily. Thank you for creating such wonderful products that support such an inspiring mission.

Virginia Fisher says …

With my aging skin, I wanted a natural lotion to hydrate my skin after a shower. I purchased the Everyday Coconut Super Hydrating Body Lotion. It is not heavy or sticky, and goes on very smooth. After trying this I decided to get a more natural body wash, and I purchased the Authentic African Black Soap. I loved this product too! So light and refreshing to my skin. I'm so happy I found body products that will care for my skin. I cannot wait to see what other Alaffia products there are to try.

Rachel says …

My shower is full of Alaffia. I know it's safe to clean, detangle and moisturize my favorite little bodies just as much as it works for my husband and I.

Margaret Gabriele says …

I had not heard of them before but definitely want to buy some of their product the next time I am at Whole Foods..

Shannon says …

I love Alaffia products because of its' mission to help families in West Africa. I served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and met my husband there as well. Living in Cameroon I loved being able to get pure shea butter and now that I am back in the US I love being able to get products with West African shea butter. I especially love their products for curly hair which I use for our daughter.

Kathleen says …

I love the lavender shea butter lotion. It makes my skin so happy, and I am delighted to support a company that empowers women. We are beautiful and need more companies like Alaffia! Thank you for your hard work and awesome products!!!

Cathy Harper says …

This is a win, win, win for everyone! We get great products and it supports a great cause! Why not buy responsibly? Leave it to Whole Foods to bring us all the good that the world has to offer!

Julia says …

The unrefined shea butter feels so smooth and natural!

Wanda says …

African Black Soap is the best face soap and Africa's Best Multipurpose Skin Cream is heaven on my face. Both products together have cleared my pores and moisturizers my face better than anything I've ever used. I also use the skin cream on my daughter who suffers from dry skin. It's great when she has a flare up. I definitely recommend these products.

Ecotechie says …

I admire your dedication to bettering the lives of your people. I was born and brought up in India and you have inspired me to do go out there and try and make a difference.

Ket Velasquez says …

The unscented Shea butter which leaves your skin extremely smooth and it's perfect for my daughter's eczema. Love, love the products and company. :-))

Elaine says …

The moisturizing lotion is a must-have in the summer.

Sheila Gardner says …

I love beautiful curls shampoo and leave in conditioner for curly to kinky hair, I just tried the hair lotion and love it! The products are awesome I haven't tried the skin products yet but I definitely will give it a try!

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