As you well know, a main impetus of Alaffia’s beginning was when I met Rose in the 90’s as she was serving my hometown as a sustainable agriculture volunteer in the Peace Corps. As fate would have it, we became partners in both life and business. Her wisdom of ethnobotany, the study of the relationship between humans and flora combined with my cultural knowledge of what is native and indigenous to our part of the world would feed and sustain our work together and inform many of our Alaffia hair and body care formulations. We capitalized on the synergy between our two world views, melded our resources and created Alaffia, which I am so very proud to say continues to put the health of our natural world at the top of our radar and priority list. The Alaffia Foundation has a reforestation project entirely dedicated to sustainable agriculture and if you’re not already familiar here’s a little bit about what we’re doing.
Because deforestation and climate change have had such an incredibly devastating impact on West African farming communities we’ve been working since 2006 to mitigate soil erosion and secure food stability in West Africa, one tree at a time. Many organizations claim to have planted "millions" of trees, but how many survive? Our reforestation project is about survival. We increase chances of tree survival by choosing species that are suitable for the environment and by planting them with community groups, such as schools, organized farmer collectives, and women-led shea nut collector groups. Groups are more likely to provide irrigation needed to get seedlings through the first dry season and protect the young trees from grazing livestock and wildfires.
Our reforestation project includes a mixture of native and non-native species. Criteria for selection include usability by community, economic value, and survivability. This year we added a new species to our mix, Khaya senegalensis. Also known as African Mahogany, this native species is an important wood for carpentry and art in West Africa. Commonly known as “boisrouge” or red wood, it is favored by Togolese artists and furniture makers.
Our efforts at reforestation are part of a larger vision of growing sustainable communities. Alaffia’s programs include community-based trainings for rural farmers on the benefits of intercropping shade-adapted crops with shea trees, and on the impacts of reducing the amount of shea trees felled for fuelwood or agricultural clearing. By offering alternative fuel resources, such as bio-gas and bio-oil, and lifting the veil of misconception around shea trees as the only option for heat and fire, our hope is to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.
Shea trees grow naturally in the wild and there is no need for farming or irrigation. This is where the education piece comes in because shea wood is notoriously over harvested for firewood and it takes a whopping 25 years for a shea tree to grow to maturity and bear fruit, but once it does it continues to provide for 200 years. Small-scale organic farming and other sustainable agriculture practices tackle our climate crisis head on and help feed and empower the community as well as preserve the land for future generations.
With the help of your Alaffia purchases and donations we’ve been able to plant approximately 93,009 trees to date in Togo with our reforestation project. We update these numbers on our packaging as often as we can to reflect our quickly growing empowerment statistics. If you’re feeling particularly compelled and drawn to any one empowerment initiative, you’re always able to choose where you’d like your donations allocated at checkout online at Alaffia.com. I am endlessly in awe of what we’ve been able to accomplish by virtue of coming together as one team. Yanakokari (Thank you), Alaffia family.