Whole Story

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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

Kate Maldonado says …

I have been making a concerted effort to be more conscious of what I buy, where it comes from, and the impact my choices may have on others. It is essential that we support locally and globally when we can to support the continued efforts of people and communities worldwide. Thank you for sharing the stories of these women who represent a great many more. I will continue to make conscientious purchases as well as share what I learn with those around me.

Stephanie Vining says …

I love these products and love Whole Foods because they are a great store with great products to help the entire world.

Mary Ibis says …

I buy in bulk, organic, local when I can. We eat low on the food chain, and I research brands before I buy them. Thanks for adding a new option to my shopping list! I'll be glad to test these products in the near future.

anna says …

I know my purchases affect the economy and i try to avoid buying things all together. Further, I only invest in products I know are good. This seems like a great bet. thanks

Anne says …

These are amazing stories! This is what life is all about "opportunities" I am always looking for new natural products that are not full of chemicals, that nourish our bodies. All though i have not tried this product line, i definately will be looking forward to purchasing it the next time i am at whole foods. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, keep up the awesome work do whole foods!

Claudia Keys says …

What a wonderful idea..

Vicki G says …

Purchasing items, like Alaffia that benefit so many, are one of the pleasures in going to Whole foods!! Knowing that my small purchase can touch so many lives makes it a better day for everyone!! Thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Xandi Rae says …

i like to think that by being aware of where the products I buy come from I am actively choosing to help others who may not have been as lucky as I am and this helps make their world a bit better.

David Watt says …

I recently applied for the position of construction project manager, SE Region. After reading the Everyday Shea and other articles I am sold on Whole Foods as my grocer. I hope to support your positive global acts by starting to shop at your store. Thanks for the good work and keep it up!

Rachel C says …

I am just trying to do my part by bying smart. I try to avoid making needless waste, by re-using and recycling. I buy products with local people in mind, and also those less fortunate in other poorer countrys, who work hard to produce things to make a living. In doing so, I can keep a moderately clean conscience, and feel good about myself.

Sara says …

As consumers we vote everyday with our dollars.

Susan March says …

Helping women of the world and celebrating there beauty with Everyday Shea. Alaffia Body care products bring out the beauty in all of us to be who we are and help women of the world be who they want to be..........

sarah says …

Thanks to Whole Foods for making it easy for busy people like all of us to make a difference even in the smallest ways by providing essential products as these that has a bigger story and impact.

Rusty L says …

Wonderful testimonies of lives being changed by the EveryDay Shea co-operative. I have used shea for many years not knowing who specifically was benefiting from the sale, am now happy to be a part of these families by buying their products.

Heather says …

When I buy something new, I give something away. So I am mindful of the quality of items I buy knowing that eventually I will be giving it away. It also inspires me to take good care of what I have, knowing that someone else will use it too.

linzi Murray-Hendry says …

This was a few months ago but i causually mentioned when shopping with my children that I wanted tea..." go find the tea for me ". . Just to keep them busy in the store . .I have 3 boys and 1 Girl . .Murray is 15, Lewis is 8, Finlay is 5 and my fairy princess Lyla who is 3. . . So they find the tea and my eldest asks me what kind of tea fair trade is? He thinks its a blend!. ....anyway I explain to them all and now when we go shopping they look for every brand that is fair trade. . And get disappointed when something doesn't have that label. . They like that they are helping people and all we are ding is shopping. . . I hope they do the same with their children.

Anita Brower says …

I don't exclusively purchase Alaffia products. In the past nine years I have become aware of how toxic laden our world has become. From my perspective, I attempt to make the best purchases possible. In that regard I help the world as one(unity) and when I have an opportunity to share what I have learned. Looking into Fair Trade and sustainable and humane practices of farmers here and abroad do have in influence in many of my purchases as I slowly make the transition a healthy lifestyle. I briefly read the Togalese communities article. It's nice to read such articles and the effect it has on indivduals as well as the whole community.

Josette Sloley says …

I love the idea of making a purchase that provides goodness to both me and the community. There are so many people struggling to make ends meet and this is such a great and unique way to make a lot of people happy. I love the product and like the fact that I am not the only benafactor. Thank you Whole Foods for bringing the community together with shared common goal. Josette Sloley

Lynn says …

While I am trying to simplify, to not partake nearly as much in this rampant culture of consumption, the truth is one still needs things--and I still want things of quality and which make my world/life easier and richer. I want to continue to raise my awareness of the long and short term impacts of my purchases--not only environmentally--their carbon-footprint, but socially as well. The Everyday Shea Story helps inspire more informed consumer decisions.

Jody says …

I am glad more and more companies are working to help communities in need. We are part of a global race and every bit will help.

NARDA MARTIN says …

WOW I AM IN AWE BY THE STORIES OF EACH WOMAN & WHAT THE MONEY EARNED IS PROVIDING FOR THEM AS WELL AS THIER FAMILIES EVEN MORE TO I ANY ECO FREINDLY PRODUCTS OR PRODUCTIONS THAT HELP THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA IS A PLUS FOR MAMA EARTH HER SELF ! AS I HAVE SEEN FIRST HAND WHAT NON FREINDLY ECOLOGIGALLY UNSAFE MATERIALS DO IN THE CARRIBEAN & THRU OUT OTHER PLACE WITH OUT A RECYCLING PLANTS OR CENTERS SET IN PLACE CAN LEAD TO , WHAT I SEIS NEEDED IN TOGO AS WELL AS AFRICA & MANY OTHER PLACES IN THE WORLD IS THE POWER & KNOWLEDGE TO RECYCLE !! AS A VEGAN FOR 31 YEARS EVERTHING I TRY TO PURCHASE MUST BE ECO FREINDLY , FOR THE EARTH IS THE INHERITANCE OF OUR CHILDREN & NEXT GENERATIONS AND I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THE PLANET IN A BETTER CONDITION / STATE THAN IT IS AT PRESENT !@ WHAT IS NEEDED MORE RECYCLING PLANTS & MORE PERSONS WORLDWIDE TO CARE & LOVE MAMA EARTH MORE !LOVED THIS STORY ~ N'N MARTIN P.S LOVE ALAFFIA SHEA BUTTER MY FAVORITE !

patty b says …

I have been trying to choose products that give to a good cause. I have slowly been switching from brands that I use out of habit and experimenting with new brands that do some positive good. I love supporting real people rather than large companies. And I especially love knowing that my purchase is improving the lives of people less fortunate than me. I recently discovered Alaffia conditioner and am in love! It smells amazing and actually makes my hair look great! It is awesome!

Laura Schofield says …

I actively search out fair trade products. I avoid plastics and look to reuse items I already have rather than purchase new. I buy organics to take away from Monsanto's profits and influence as well as preserve my own health.

Ben Roberts says …

What I purchase, for better or worse, determines who I am in America. When I buy sustainably I'm depicting a public opinion in support of such practices and help to further its popularity and support. I also slip the occasional comment to a friend or family member regarding why my well purposed purchase was fantastic.

katrin says …

I purchase only organic & locally grown produce from the farmers markets. Helping our planet and our farmers! I also don't use any plastic bags! I bring my own cloth bags everywhere!

Charmaine says …

I think Alaffia is doing great work. I belive it is important for a person to feel needed and that what they do matters. Working in the coop is more than just making money, it gives the individual a feeling of accomplishment and pride.

meredith michaud says …

these products look so wonderful and I'm so excited about whole project may other countries see this and take this idea and run with it....maybe even the world..

Shadia L. says …

I make it a crucial priority and importance in my lifestyle to be a conscious consumer. Conscious purchases on my family's part whether fair-trade, organic, local etc. are a small step in an ethical and healthy direction. We have harnessed the mentality and direction, and have put forth our passionate beliefs in actions as part of this complex global economic market. My purchases are consistently shared with those who will listen and reap the benefits through initial example. Whether its our friends, neighbors, family, advisors, or a passerby, one more person educated and impassioned as another small step in the right direction. Products like those mentioned will be prized and utilized as an example.

Sharon says …

I've been thoroughly going through products in our house and starting to replace not helpful ones with ones that help folks in other places who are making good products that make a difference. :)

Rachel says …

I try to make as many of my purchases as possible fair trade or local. It is amazing to think that we can vote with our dollars and yet we often 'vote' with very little research. I am grateful that more educational resources are becoming available so that as consumers, we are better informed. I love Alaffia's products and stories.

Carrie says …

I love the feeling of buying products that are not tested on animals, that use recycled materials to cut down on pollution, and products from other countries whose workers are treated fairly. Using those friendly products I buy is a daily reminder of how fortunate I am to be able to support the efforts of those companies who have fair trade, recycling, and environmental protection in mind.

Alicia Berg says …

I try to look for products that have some kind of incentive like contributing part of their profit to some organization.

devona wiedenmeyer says …

I have been using natural products since the 70's.I began when my next door neighbor got me started on organic foods.She said one day it will change the world for the better, of course at that time there were only a handful of stores around and they were little with a few products to choose. I wish that she was alive today to see the progress that has been made.I lost my friend a few years later at a young age. I wish she was alive today to see she was right. It did change the world.

Victoria Murphy says …

As a single mother I struggled to provide for my son, I con't imagine the challenge it must be for the women in Togo. Buying products which help women to be self sustaining put a smile in my heart.

Lauren says …

My preference is to buy fair-trade and support local businesses and farms when I can.

Lucy says …

I support businesses who are committed to helping others. If I win this gift basket, it will be used as part of a fundraising effort aimed at assisting orphan care groups.

JoLynn-dreaminitvegan says …

How wonderful to see these people and the community. We use Everyday Shea body wash in our family. I feel even better about using it after reading this.

Paul F. says …

Sometimes I feel really jaded about making a difference in our political system. One place I still feel like I can make a difference is where I spend my money. If everyone puts their money where their ideals are we can make a difference.

C says …

I only purchase plant-based foods, in order to reduce my ecological footprint and help reduce human hunger. We use to much of our resources to produce meat and if we re-directed that toward feeding other people, no one on this planet would need to go hungry.

Jen says …

it makes me feel better to buy products that give back.....

Carole says …

Good for my family and good for the community that produces it.

Arlene p. says …

I will use these products and then pass them on, by purchasing them for other people.

Tiffany says …

I try to support companies with my purchase that make an effort to take less away from our planet and do the most to help our planet. I try to buy locally to help support local independent growers that exercise eco-friendliness, sustainably produced produce, and meats that are free from cruelty. I know it's not much but if everyone did a little it would make a HUGE difference.

Kristina Wittchen says …

I am very conscious of the impact of my purchases. I buy organic and Fair Trade because it lessens the negative impact on the environment and other people's lives.

Janet Chen says …

I use my purchases to encourage sustainable farming.

J. Keng 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.

Morgan Kobielusz says …

Every change begins with yourself. I try to make most my purchases from local farmers and artisans; avoid overpackaging; and reuse my produce/bread/bulk bags.

Deborah Gregrich says …

I always buy nest fresh/free eggs, believing that I say that animals should be treated humanely. The same with milk that has no antibiotics or pesticides added. A cleaner environment for human beings as well.

Alicia D. says …

I try to buy local products, and this year am subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which supports new American farmers who have recently moved to the US. I try to purchase products that support small farmers and that don't contribute to factory farming.

Amy says …

Each time we buy something, we create a demand for that thing and all that goes into producing it. And, in buying that thing, we tacitly approve its production processes. While keeping track of all that goes into each thing I buy would take more time that I have free (and more information than I have access to), I do try to choose foods that are the products of humane labor and sustainable land policies. Unfortunately, few sustainably and humanely produced products are affordable to those earning a modest or low wage. In an ideal world, prices would reflect the true cost of goods,and it would be the products most devastating to life and the planet that would be most expensive.

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