Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People

By Dark Rye, February 8, 2014  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Dark Rye

Dark Rye is an online magazine from Whole Foods Market that explores the realms of food, health, sustainability, design, technology and social enterprise. Get fresh insight from our mixtape of stories, recipes, creative projects and people — pioneers of unconventional who explore the edges of a creative life.

In this issue, Body, Dark Rye’s body of work explores the body through the lenses of exercise, grief, diet, suffering, yoga, death and more.

Feed yourself with this featured profile of Olowo-n’djo Tchala founder of Alaffia body care.

Fostering a Body of People

We get it. It’s your body and caring for your body cares for the self, your community and the vast interconnectedness of all phenomena. But if you’re using five or six different face creams, hair sprays, and cleansers that’s four or five too many because shea butter has been doing it all forever. Used for hair and skin care for centuries in Africa (and by Cleopatra!), shea butter has been Alaffia’s means of mobilizing Africa’s resources and its rich traditional knowledge into the global economy.

Founded in Love

In 1996, Rose Hyde of rural Washington State was posted to Olowo-n’djo Tchala’s hometown of Kambolé, Togo, as a sustainable farming educator with the Peace Corps. His brother moved her furniture — and drawn by the tales of this curious new stranger in the neighborhood, he came over one day to talk.

Says Olowo-n’djo: “I never left.”

For Olowo-n’djo, meeting Rose was a spark. He went with her to the United States and learned English. From there, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Studies with emphasis on Global Economic Systems from the University of California, Davis — quite the mouthful for anyone, let alone an ESL kid who had dropped out of school in grade six.

In 2003, Olowo-n’djo and Rose began a handcrafted shea butter co-op for women in Togo as a way of fundraising for community projects like setting up maternal health programs, giving bicycles out to help kids get to (and stay in) school, and planting trees. What began with 40 shea butter harvesters now brings together more than 500 women — a company that reconciles moral goals and a hunger for social change with soft skin and smart selling.

Read more about their start, their mission and the future they see for their girls in this interview with Rose and Olowo-n’djo on Dark Rye.

Shea Butter: History and Process

Shea butter has been used for centuries on the African continent and is completely enmeshed within the history and culture of the West African wooded savanna.

Shea butter is mentioned in almost all African historical documents, including a reference as early as Cleopatra’s Egypt, which mentions caravans bearing clay jars of shea butter for cosmetic use. Funeral beds of kings were carved in wood of old shea trees, and shea butter has always been a staple of African pharmacology.

Learn more about the traditional uses of shea and scroll through a pictorial overview of how wild shea nuts become shea butter for Alaffia products.

Has love or tradition shaped your life’s body of work? Do share in the comments below.

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Category: Videos, Whole Body




Donna Gilbert says ...
I love Alaffia Black Soap. One product for soap, shampoo and shaving cream = awesome!!
02/12/2014 2:57:47 PM CST
Tanya Lamarr Jackman says ...
I use Shea Butter from West Africa and I do love it. I will try this product as well. It has such healing aspects for the skin. I love this story.
02/13/2014 4:04:06 PM CST
Lara says ...
Hello - I love this and just bought some of the Good Soap created by Alaffia exclusively for Whole Foods. However, ingredients are not listed. Can you please advise on the ingredients?
03/03/2014 4:55:48 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LARA - I don't have an exact ingredient list so I would suggest reaching out to Alaffia directly to see if they can provide one for you. You can find their contact info at http://www.alaffia.com/store/pc/contact.asp.
03/04/2014 3:45:53 PM CST
Amy says ...
Very happy to heard that this product Shea butter from this Organisation ALAFFIA , is part of my Original Country and very proud of people of Kambole region. From now going I would buy and continuously using this product . Good job Rose and my Fellow brother. !! Courage , I would recommend it to everyone . Amy.
03/07/2014 8:53:24 PM CST
Roh says ...
I've had the pleasure of using your Good Soap line in the Sunshine and Coconut scented. The Sunshine scent is intoxicating and is noticeably one of the best sellers. I brought the last two bars on the shelf. My skin is sooo soft, I love it!!! I noticed a huge change in my skin texture within one week of use. I highly recommend this soap. I am a fan and will continue to buy this soap.
03/25/2014 10:52:57 AM CDT
Lynne says ...
I was in whole foods in Franklin, TN today and came upon a display of your brand "good soap." Since there were no ingredients listed I asked the store manager. She did not know and called the department specialist in...and she didn't know either. Your soap look inviting, but I prefer to know what's in a product before I purchase. Could you provide a list ingredients in your 'good soap' ? Thank you~
04/06/2014 8:36:14 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LYNNE - Since we don't make this product, I would suggest reaching out to Alaffia directly. You can reach out to them on their website at http://www.alaffia.com/store/pc/contact.asp.
04/07/2014 2:29:46 PM CDT
Rae says ...
Good Soap is absolutely awesome. especially sunshine and coconut. Please continue to sell at the whole Foods in Hillcrest. I am in Love!
04/25/2014 1:08:48 AM CDT
Karla T says ...
Please add me to the list of fans for Good Soap. I have very dry skin... Especially in the winter time. I would use a body wash and then drown my skin in lotion everyday. This soap has changed the feel and moisture level of my skin. It is absolutely amazing. I have used rose and sunshine. With sunshine being my favorite scent of the two. And now I'm happy to know the story behind the product which makes purchasing the soap that much better. Highly recommend Good Soap.
05/08/2014 12:57:06 AM CDT
Michelle says ...
I have sensitive skin so I reached out to Alaffia for an ingredient list prior to purchasing. Once I received the list, I purchased a few bars. I love this soap and recently picked up a new scent Fresh Mint.
06/07/2014 4:10:41 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
Suggestion for Whole Foods Company. You would sell a lot more Alaffia "Good Soap" if you would ask Alaffia to list the ingredients somewhere on the display. A lot of customers read ingredient lists and will not buy any toiletries without all the ingredients listed. Thank you for considering customer feedback.
06/19/2014 5:49:57 PM CDT