Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Everyday Shea Helps West Africans Every Day

By Olowo-n'djo Tchala, February 16, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Olowo-n'djo Tchala
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.
Category: Whole Trade


1 Comment


Lana B says ...
It's wonderful to know that by purchasing these products we are empowering women 1/2 a world away. And their smiles in the pictures are truly worth a thousand words!! Thank you for sharing their story w/ us. ~Lana B~
02/16/2010 9:41:00 AM CST
Natasha says ...
What I like best about buying Whole Trade is the feeling of knowing that there's no guilt involved. I know that my money is helping someone make an honest living. And I also know that I'm voting with my dollars for a better business model. It's time that people realize that cheap products can only be made with cheap labor and cheap labor is often exploited labor!
02/16/2010 9:59:30 AM CST
Melinda says ...
This is a wonderful article showing us that buying certain products can actually help people, and not just overgrown corporations. Go Whole Foods!
02/16/2010 10:03:59 AM CST
Cheryl says ...
I DISCOVERD WHOLEFOODS about 2 months ago and the first product I ever bought was the laundry detergent OMG quality quality quality..... I just love it and recommend it . THe better part of this is not only are you purchasing a quality product that little difference in purchasing the Whole Trade product goes a long way..... just a way to make a difference where we can !!! Thank you WHOLEFOODS
02/16/2010 10:05:05 AM CST
Shamima says ...
What I like best about purchasing Whole Trade products is the knowledge that producers and workers in these developing areas will be receiving a fair price. This will ultimately lead to thriving communities who benefit from the relationships formed through whole trade and better family living. Whole trade living promotes social, economical and environmental justice and those are 3 things we can all appreciate!
02/16/2010 10:05:50 AM CST
monica melgoza says ...
The best thing about buying whole trade is that you are teaching a man how to fish instead giving him a fish.
02/16/2010 10:07:39 AM CST
Kelley Taylor says ...
I can't wait to try this! Looks awesome!
02/16/2010 10:08:13 AM CST
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
02/16/2010 10:09:18 AM CST
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
02/16/2010 10:11:10 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:12:19 AM CST
Sabrina Frazier says ...
There is no greater voice to be heard than to speak in the marketplace with our dollars!
02/16/2010 10:13:28 AM CST
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!
02/16/2010 10:15:06 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:16:48 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:17:24 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:18:20 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:21:12 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:23:47 AM CST
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!
02/16/2010 10:24:36 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:26:48 AM CST
MartiC says ...
I like knowing that the people who did the work in creating the products are being fairly compensated.
02/16/2010 10:28:18 AM CST
Carole S says ...
First, I use Everyday Shea; shea butter is the best defense against chapped hands during the winter time. It's wonderful, too, that I am supporting a business that provides fair wages and jobs for people. Also, training is provided so that young people will learn traditional crafts and culture.
02/16/2010 10:28:33 AM CST
R Shepard says ...
Just bought some Everyday Shea. Great product and it was personally valuable to make a difference with a fair trade product.
02/16/2010 10:30:39 AM CST
Sarah says ...
I like to purchase Whole Trade products because I know that the money made is going straight to those who need it and it gives them jobs that they otherwise would not have.
02/16/2010 10:34:30 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:35:06 AM CST
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.
02/16/2010 10:38:25 AM CST