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Alaffia: Diversifying Humanities

There are numerous brands out there that contribute to the betterment of man, but none is as diverse or as passionate as Alaffia. Founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Prairie Rose Hyde, this brand takes social empowerment to a whole new level.

Alaffia produces and sells beauty care products made from sustainably harvested, traditionally extracted, unrefined coconut oil and shea butter from Togo, West Africa. Fair wages and prices are paid to the Alaffia members and farmers. The final products are completed in small batches by hand in their Olympia, Washington facility in order to reduce energy consumption and increase product quality. They even have environmentally mindful packaging.

All Alaffia products are Fair Trade certified. What does that mean? Basic fair trade requirements involve locally fair wages, equal opportunity employment, environmentally sustainable practices, and healthy, safe working conditions. Because of Alaffia’s fair trade practices, shea butter prices are twice as high as market competitors in West African ports. They pay 15-25% above market for their shea nuts, members receive four times higher salary than the average family income in Togo. Members also receive full medical care, employment security, and one month paid vacation per year. This has earned Alaffia the Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade certification by IMO (the Institute for Marketecology).

What makes Alaffia’s beauty products superior to most of their competitors, besides the ethically and morally sound business practices, is the fact that their shea butter and coconut oils remain unrefined. This allows the product to retain all of the important vitamins and antioxidants that make shea butter and coconut oil so effective. It also allows members to process the raw ingredients in the traditional way.

In the Queen Alaffia Collection, each piece of the collection is one of a kind, handmade in Togo. The Alaffia Artisan Center, where the articles are made, rehabilitates women who had once been forced into the sex trade due to various circumstances. The Center offers these women a stable income and a respectable work environment they can be proud of. They also learn and retain traditional techniques and sewing skills.

Their Good Soap brand is offered exclusively at Whole Foods Markets nationwide. One percent of sales is donated to the Whole Planet Foundation which aims to alleviate poverty by offering microcredit to communities worldwide. Alaffia adds to the usefulness of this brand by allocating funds generated from the soap’s sales to building a kindergarten in Togo each year!

Already this company has earned the title of hero from its wonderful products alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg!

Alaffia has started and funds multiple “Empowerment Projects” in Togo. The goal is to help alleviate poverty and gender inequality. The programs are certainly diversified; from education-based projects, the Maternal Care Project, Reforestation Project, Eyeglasses Project to the FGM Eradication Project.

Education Projects:

The education projects provide necessities to school children: uniforms, books, writing supplies, desks and even new roofs on schools. Alaffia partners with retailers in the United States to collect school supplies. To help, call 1-800-664-8005.

In the rural areas of Togo, many children have to walk ten miles to simply attend school. The area lacks buses and families cannot afford private transportation. Therefore, school becomes a very time-consuming part of a child’s day and often they will drop out of school in order to help their family with work. To help combat this inconvenience that costs children their education, Alaffia donates used bikes to school children. And it works! About 95% of bicycle recipients go on to graduate secondary school. The bikes are collected from communities in Washington and Oregon. They take bicycles destined for dumps and give them new life to encourage children to stay in school.

The Maternal Care Project:

The Maternal Care Project was started to help reduce the massive amount of deaths that occur each year in West Africa due to pregnancy or childbirth. Every year, Alaffia funds pre- and post-delivery care for local women, as well as provides information and training on often overlooked topic of women’s health issues.

FGM Eradication Project:

The Female Genitalia Mutilation (FGM) Eradication Project is an extension of the Maternal Care Project. Internationally, FGM is considered a violation of human rights and has many risks associated with it. Risks include severe bleeding, persistent infections, life-threatening complications during childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. Alaffia offers a moving testimonial about this project on their website under FGM Eradication Project.

Reforestation Project:

This project encourages Togolese farmers to plant trees to reforest their homes. Reforestation minimizes erosion and improves food security. Training is conducted to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood, protecting an indigenous resource. It also investigates sustainable fuel alternatives to firewood and charcoal, primarily bio-gas and bio-oils.

Eyeglasses Project:

Due to the prohibitive prices of eye care in West Africa leaves children, adults and aging community members without clear sight. Eye exams in West Africa can cost as much as one month’s pay, and glasses as much as four month’s pay. This project collects used/unwanted glasses from U.S. communities and an optometrist in Togo properly fits and distributes the new glasses.

To read more about Alaffia, explore their website and donate to the cause. Be sure to check out the fantastic beauty care products they offer.

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