To Alaffia, fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions, being open to public accountability, and reducing the number of middlemen between producers and consumers. We believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self empower.
Fair Trade is a movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure that producers in poor countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers. While there are several definitions of fair trade, they all include:
Fair Trade certification in an independent, neutral third party certification verifying that an organization upholds to fair trade, social and environmental standards in their operations.
Alaffia shea butter is certified Fair for Life:Social and FairTrade by IMO - the Institute for Marketecology, one of the first and most renowned international inspection & certification agencies for organic and social (fair trade) accountability. IMO's Fair for Life certification combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. You can read more about IMO at their website, and more about the Fair for Life certification at www.fairforlife.org.
Unrefined shea butter is a valuable natural resource for West Africa and could be an important tool in empowering local communities. However, most shea butter on the market in the United States and Europe is not fairly traded. Without fair trade, the women who gather shea nuts and hand craft this remarkable oil receive only a tiny fraction of the final price.
It is estimated to take 20 to 30 hours of labor to produce one kilogram of handcrafted shea butter, which is traded at $1 or less in today's market. A woman making shea butter in West Africa will receive only a fraction of this price. Therefore, a person working for 30 hours, almost a week's worth of work, will not receive even a dollar for her efforts. Even if she received the whole dollar, this does not even begin to reach living wage standards.Alaffia Fair Trade Shea Butter
The cost to handcraft shea butter at the Alaffia Cooperative is over two times the price of shea butter at West African ports.Why is our cost higher?
Like all programs, there are limitations to Fair Trade certification. The rules and criteria for certification are set up in the West, without an in-depth understanding of the cultural complexity of the individual communities where certification is taking place. This means that while the criteria are set up with the best intentions, they may not be as effective as they could be.
One of the largest setbacks to Fair Trade certification is the cost, which:
Fair Trade can contribute to famine situations - farmers plant cash crops with promise of higher prices at expense of subsistence farming (food crops). Then, when the market for the particular fair trade commodity goes down, or the crop fails, farmers may not able to feed their families.Why is Alaffia Certified Fair Trade?
Despite the limitations of Fair Trade certification, it does have multiple benefits for Alaffia. The three primary reasons we feel certification is important for us are:
Since our beginning - before we could even consider certification, we have been completely committed to our communities. Alaffia was founded to empower individuals and communities through the fair trade of an indigenous, sustainable resource. This continues to be our main goal, regardless of fair trade certification. As a result, our project funding goes beyond the minimum commitment for community projects required for fair trade certification - and reaches far into Togolese communities. Read more about these projects on our empowerment page.
Furthermore, we reach true fair trade by eliminating the middleman, and therefore do not increase the price to our customers. You can see how this is possible in the simple diagrams below:
Organizational Structure of Alaffia:
Nut gatherer→ Alaffia Cooperative→Alaffia USA→ Consumer
Organizational Structure of a Typical Fair Trade Entity:
Small farmer→Commodity Buyer→ Importer/Exporter→ Ingredient Wholesaler→Manufacturer → Distributor→Consumer
Through our direct involvement in the entire process - from gathering the wild shea nuts and crafting the butter, to distribution locally and abroad - our members receive fair and steady incomes. In addition, 10% of sales always go directly back to our community empowerment projects. We believe combining fair wages and prices with community projects can lead our communities out of poverty and make our world a healthier place.