Alaffia was created to help West African communities become sustainable through the fair trade of indigenous resources. One key to sustainability is empowerment of individuals within the communities. We encourage empowerment through our community projects, our women's cooperatives, and education and involvement in our customer communities. We firmly believe that the cooperation of people across the world is as essential part of building sustainability in all our communities.
As individuals who have the good fortune of education and experience, it is our moral duty to be conscious and aware of the situations of people who are less fortunate. By empowerment, we mean identifying what individuals and communities have at their disposal - resources, skills, knowledge, and traditions - and supporting or creating initiatives in which they can use these tools and resources within their means. We feel that this gives individuals and communities a sustainable way to improve their quality of life, in contrast to relying on outside aid programs and World Bank/IMO loans.
Women in West Africa have long been excluded from the formal education sector, which means many cannot read or write. This makes them less valuable as employees, and as such, they do not have many employment opportunities. One could "empower" these women by teaching them to read and write, and helping them to find employment. However, with our women's cooperatives, we look at what these women have to offer that no one else does - their unique skills, traditions and knowledge. Then, we compensate them at fair value for these skills. As a result, they gain income and livelihoods to support their families, while maintaining traditions and managing a sustainable resource.
While individual women are empowered through their participation in our cooperatives, we also strongly believe in spreading the empowerment to the community level. Through the sales of our shea butter products, we raise funds for community projects in central Togo aimed at alleviating poverty and advancing gender equality. These projects target problems that we have identified as holding back communities - such as exclusion from education, maternal deaths and environmental degradation. Again, the support for these projects comes from the fair trade of traditional, sustainable knowledge and resources. Our projects include:
The Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative creates economic opportunity for women who were denied access to education and whose skills and knowledge are undervalued in today's societies. The cooperative members receive fair wages and also are able to maintain and pass on their traditional knowledge of handcrafting shea butter. In addition, cooperative members are fully involved in community project planning and implementation. As a result, they gain economic and social equality in their families and communities.
One of our primary goals is to provide an avenue for people in the United States to learn about other cultures and to inform them how they can work to better all our communities. There are several ways in which we do this: