By Megan Barber, Grocery and Wellness Buyer, Co-op Owner
When you purchase Alaffia, you do more than buy a product – Alaffia is a small-scale brand with a massive behind the scenes impact.
Once upon a time, a young woman named Prairie Rose Hyde from Washington met a young man named Olowo-n’djo Tchala from Togo, they formed a partnership and went on to create a successful Fair Trade and natural body care line that pursues the mission of giving back to communities in need in the western part of Africa.
When they met, Tchala had only a sixth grade education, and had grown up in an 8 x 10’ room with his mother and seven siblings. After dropping out of school due to the expense, Tchala worked with his mother on their farm until 1996. That’s when he fell in love with a Peace Corps Volunteer named, you guessed it, Prairie while she was working in the area. After her service was completed, they both moved back to the United States with the aim of alleviating poverty in West Africa. Both went to college and earned degrees that would help them with their ambitious goals. Then they began to plan their organization – Alaffia.
A*laf*fi*a \ ah-la-fee-uh. A common greeting or valediction from central Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. Alaffia means a state of peace, health, and well-being.
Their products range from shampoos and conditioners, lotions, and facial care, to bar soaps, body washes, and even pure shea butter, many of which are available every day at GreenTree. If you are looking for natural and nourishing ways to take care of your body, Alaffia has the solution you need.
Of course, Alaffia doesn’t just make Fair Trade, natural, and overall amazing products, they also work just as hard at helping the communities of Togo in diverse ways. An eye exam can cost a person in Togo up to a month’s salary, so Alaffia has stepped in and now conducts eye glasses donation drives all over the U.S. These glasses are then shipped and distributed to people in need. So far, 14,200 pairs of glasses have been distributed. Deforestation and climate change have had a large impact on African farming communities. To help combat this, Alaffia has funded the planting of 53,125 trees to help stop erosion and improve growing practices.
Education is the key to success, so Alaffia has made it easier for kids to get to schools by donating 7,100 bicycles, easier to learn by supplying 23,700 school supplies, created a better learning environment by building 1,855 benches, and made education more widely available by constructing 10 schools.
Alaffia also educates communities about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) through their Maternal Health Initiative. FGM encompasses the intentional altering and harming of female genital organs for non-medical purposes, and its practice is currently recognized as an international violation of human rights. Alaffia’s Maternal Health Initiative starts by conducting meetings in villages to educate them about the risks of FGM along with ways to end the practice, but also focuses on long-term health, hygiene, and nutrition of women specifically. (You can find out more about the practice and Alaffia’s programs here.)
Alaffia was created because two people saw the need to better the world, and they are achieving their mission one bicycle, one pencil, and one meeting at a time.
Original cover photo can be found here.