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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

Laurie Hughes says …

Hi Whole Foods, My choice is always whole traded products; from chocolate to coffee and beautiful artisan items, I am reminded of the abundance given to me. The connection I feel with the exceptional people producing these wonderful gifts is life changing! Namaste always, Laurie

Margaret Mapes says …

This West African community is looking for a handup, not a handout, like many other startup businesses in some of the poorest regions in the world. We need to continue to support these creative efforts to help these people, and thank businesses like Whole Foods for having the moral compass to do their part. Thank you.

Lindsay says …

Buying Whole Trade is important to me because I like knowing that, even though I'm paying a bit more for an item, it isn't at the expense of someone who helped make that product.

Marlise Taylor says …

I absolutely LOVE the Whole Trade product line. They make my skin so soft and smooth. In addition, the smell great! Also, the prices of the products are reasonable for the quantity received. Particularly, I absolutely love the Everyday Shea Lavendar bath wash because it is non-irritating and has a wonderfully, relaxing smell! Just love it!!

Angela Walker says …

There is no greater feeling than knowing that we all can profit from making the world a better place to live. Over the past year, this concept has transformed my way of life. Not only my life, but the lives of those all over the world. What others think to be little changes, I believe these changes contribute towards great accomplishments. I plan to continue to purchase products that raise the level of awareness of other parts of the world.

Amanda says …

Having lived in Africa while serving in the Peace Corps, I have seen not only the effects of devastating poverty but also the immense impact of income generating cooperatives. It's amazing what happens when people think beyond themselves and support fair trade, in effect supporting women, children and families on the other side of the world. Fair trade = fair wage = opportunity!

alexa says …

so good to be able to help women worldwide.

alexa says …

so good to be able to help women worldwide. we need to think globally.

Marianne says …

I love that I get a great product and women across the world are empowered.

Darby Cordova says …

T/product, thought it is truly wonderful, is secondary to t/good work it's purchase produces. Thank you for letting me help others & enjoy excellent products.

Patty says …

I love supporting products that empower women and also maintains a traditional craft.

Darby Cordova says …

T/product, though it is truly wonderful, is secondary to t/good work it's purchase produces. Thank you for letting me help others & enjoy excellent products.

Kristin Barley says …

I've always loved shea products and that it comes attached to such a great and noble cause only makes buying it all the better. I haven't tried Everyday Shea yet, but I will and I will use it knowing it was produced by loving hands and helping people worldwide.

Susan Shortall says …

I am very heppy to purchase Whole Trade Products knowing that I am helping poor, impoverished people, and knowing that these people care about the quality of product they produce. I am confident knowing that these products have been, in most cases, hand crafted and passed down from generation to generation. I appreciate and use, quality, natural Whole Trade Products as often as possible, and anything I can do to support these hard working, caring people while also benefiting my good health...well, it's just the right thing to do. Thank you, Susan

Amber B says …

I haven't purchased any of your products, but I would love to try them out!

kath h says …

I support Whole Trade and Fair Trade whenever I can. I feel that their support, encouragement and expansion benefits not only the peoples involved and their lands, but the entire planet. We have to realize and act on the fact that we are not alone in this world or that our actions impact others. Companies such as Alaffia, have put into practice what others only talk about. Those who can support these groups and thus help provide education, a living wage, self respect, and a potential career for our brothers and sisters, have a mandate to participate. I especially appreciate the fact that we can help empower other women to succeed and have the ability to support themselves and families. Thank you for this opportunity.

valerie hess says …

I will buy almost anything from a women's cooperative! Helping women get out of poverty, have work with dignity, provide for the families is one of the smartest best things we can do to make the world a better, safer place for us all.

Antonio Miller says …

Whenever we purchase whole trade it reminds us tha we are "one world". My actions in my neighborhood, effect my neighbors of the world. I can make it a positive or a negative effect. Thank you for helping me to make it positive.

Shayna says …

Purchasing Whole Trade products is not only ethically, economically (in a global sense), and environmentally sensible, but it's also a guarantee that I'm getting a top-quality product. I'm excited to see Everyday Shea and all the good work behind it because I have very sensitive skin, and the Everyday Shea soaps have saved it. I had been using Dr. Bronner's for years and having a so-so response from my skin, but the Everyday Shea soap has turned it all around. I'll never use anything else! So one more benefit to buying Whole Trade: naturally healing and promoting good health in one's body! I'm so glad I can help support a cooperative that truly makes the world a better place for women and their communities.

Lisa-Marie says …

It's an added treat to know that my luxury lotions purchases will benefit women in a wonderful community so far away.

Christina Rodriguez says …

I've always loved fresh shea! I think this prize is a great way to help empower women across the world. I actually buy shea from a small store in Brooklyn, NY that is owned by West Africans. I will always support products that are made by people in a community rather than a company's machinery and chemically added products. Thanks for sharing!

Sandra DeSmedt says …

I love buying fair trade products, because i feel good knowing that the people who made them are being paid a living wage and are not being exploited.

Lisa says …

The first time I tried Everyday Shea products was about a year ago. I think the products are among the best I have ever used. I have given many of the products as gifts as well. Now that I have read the associated article I feel even better about purchasing the products. Keep up the great work!

Renee Weitzner says …

I basically buy Fair Trade products because it's the right thing to do. We all benefit from Fair Trade products: the producers, the consumers and everyone in between. A rising sea raises all boats-- and that's all to the good. We get to know that we are helping people at the same time are helping ourselves feel good, think smart, and feel fulfilled.

Amanda Reid says …

I always look for the opportunity to buy fairly-traded products. So much of what we buy in the Western World is at the expense of those who are struggling. I'm glad these are being sold at Whole Foods! Now, if we can only get fair-trade bananas!

wendy smith says …

These Whole Trade products really help many aspects. They provide employement oppotunities which give other benefits also. The products have a shared spirit between the makers and the end users along with the earth they come from. This is a wonderful thing and I pray more people do these types of products.

Amy T says …

oh wow this is a fabulous article. Very inspiring! What I like best about purchasing Whole Trade product is knowing that all proceeds go directly to the people who worked hard to earned it. To the people who need it the most. Not through some trickle down process. Also the products are usually tried and true! Thank you for the great article!

Jonique H. 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. I love that shopping at Whole Foods ensures that the people who put hard work into their products are able to better their lives. These beautiful women make superior shea butter!

Linda West says …

I am grateful for every opportunity to make purchases that support my values- To help impoverished people to become self-sufficient, to be kind to the environment, to use products that are kind to my body, to use my resources to good purpose. Thank you.

Elissa Franco says …

Shea is a wonderful moisterizer and whrn the products benefit West African women, it makes it even more worthwhile!

Heather K. says …

I love the fact that I am supporting the small business man in developing countries. These people get to earn a living and be proud of a job well done.

Amy C says …

I love the Whole Trade Concept and helping those that need it the most. I feel that it is better for the environment, and also is a better quality than something made by the "big guys". It just makes me feel better inside that I am making a smarter decision in my purchasing.

JACKIE ZAFERATOS says …

EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM WHOLE TRADE PRODUCTS- IT SHOWS PEOPLE CARE.

Eileen Fox says …

I like the variety Whole Foods offers with its 365 products and at prices much lower than the other brands. I shopped at this location when it was Wild Oats and I was afraid of the change, but when I saw all the new products that were available,making going organic more doable, I was very pleased. Prior, I could not afford coconut oil, for one. Now, that is all we use to cook with.I buy the coconut milk, that they can hardly keep stocked on the shelves. All the condiments plus the good honey and agave.And anytime we have had a problem, Whole Foods would be more than happy to correct it for us. I feel like we are a part of a family here trying to do the best for all concerned and making our world a better place by the choices we make and by Whole Foods giving us the opportunity to make.

Courtney D. says …

What I like about buying Whole Trade products: knowing my money is supporting a women's cooperative that allows its employees - who would otherwise be excluded from the economic system - to support their families. The more money that bypasses large corporations and goes directly to a Whole Trade organization, the better.

Colleen says …

We take so much for granted in the US. Even poverty level here get assistance from the government as well as churches, private groups and individuals. It’s hard to imagine how some people in Africa live unless you have seen it. My mom went to Africa last year and described hut villages, the market places and even visited a school and ate dinner at someone’s house. Even the few pictures she had couldn’t accurately tell the conditions. There was a priest from Africa speaking in our church a few weeks ago describing the orphanage they run and how kids sleep on the dirt floor and sometimes don’t eat as well as the corrupt government. Anyway we can improve the lives of people living in these countries is appreciated. Thanks for letting me know these products can make a difference.

Christine Heady says …

If I had a choice, for all my purchases, I would buy products supporting honest people trying to make a better life for themselves, hands down. And I do whenever I can!

Cynthia Hillman says …

They are products I feel I can trust, both because they are fairly traded and safe & healthy for me and my family.

Jen R. says …

Thank you for the giveaway. The best thing about buying Fair Trade is that the money goes towards *empowerment* at the most basic field level. From building schools, to educating in basic language and math, to providing medical care-the money is used to improve and empower the lives of the workers and their families. I especially loved the last newsletter's article on Fair Trade Roses. Please keep offering stories from the direct perspective of the *workers*-they are so educational and enlightening! Thank you, Whole Foods!

Brianne says …

It really makes you want to buy these products knowing it helps support woman who are in need. It is a great thing when these women get to help themselves too.

Kathy says …

I love purchasing Fair Trade b/c then I know my money is helping the people that produced the product I purchased, and not just some nameless corporation.

Heather Vongsavanh says …

I feel that the old saying "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime" holds true here. Giving these women these skills to make such a wonderful product helps give them confidence, resources, and financial help for their families. And it is great for the environment!

Leni says …

I feel as though we are helping each other. I purchase something that I need and that contribution is helping to enrich someones life.

Carrie Werner says …

It's very important to support projects and products like this. So often behind labels are huge corporations that often leave the struggling little guy behind. Helping people achieve success and build personal goals and qualities in countries that are less fortunate, especially if you are a woman in Africa, is so important to the integrity of the world.

Beth Anderson says …

Not only do Whole Trade products provide individuals with the funds to provide for their families and live a more comfortable life, but they empower those involved to continue to take active steps in their lives, providing them with resources that they simply did not have access to before. Their talents can now shine and they can see the rewards of their hard work.

Dan says …

Great product without all the chemicals, that is actually produces results. I love that it helps those in other countries that are less fortunate without taking advantage.

Mindy Niehaus says …

I like knowing that the products I use are safe and healthy for me and my family, and I like knowing that by using these products we are connected to a history and tradition that supports and empowers people to move out of poverty.

Karen Saisbury says …

Empowerment; it's proof that the Spirit when given the chance can spread like wildfire, empower one person, it spreads to the whole community, you can see the true happiness on these women's faces as they are working, what could be more rewarding than that? And by making conscience choices in even the small things, organic, local, fair trade etc., brings it's own peace into my wellbeing and hopefully will spread in my community, now that's EMPOWERMENT!

Katrina Constable says …

When I purchase Whole Trade products I am excited that I am able to reach out to someone I may never meet in this lifetime by helping to create a better life for them. Whether that be opportunity for work or better working conditions or more finances, it is exciting to reach out in love to another human being!

Angela W. says …

Thank you Whole Foods for not only providing products like these for your customers, but for also informing consumers about how their purchases can make a difference a world away! Keep up the great work! Angela W.

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