Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human Rights & Trafficking in Africa

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my sincere wish this note finds you and your family in good health. I hope that you are enjoying the last few remaining days of 2014. Throughout 2014, I have written to share with you what Alaffia has been up to and my own personal thoughts and reflections on the course of humanity towards justice for all. While some of my reflections are of a sad nature, they have and continue to propel me to continue the Alaffia journey. One thing both the Alaffia updates and my personal notes have centered on is the profound desire for basic human rights for all.  Since this is the end of the year, I wanted to discuss with you one of the human rights abuses that persist in our society, and as we jump to a new year, we shall use this information to continue to create justice. As you know, there are many aspects of human rights, but my note will focus on one flaw I continue to witness in our West African societies. This is the trafficking of young ladies, which is an area of injustice that is very personal to me, as I have witnessed it first-hand.

Three years ago, while in Togo, my step sister was put in the local jail in our home town of Kaboli. It happened I was in Togo at the time, and I received a phone call that I must send money to Kaboli right away to bail my sister out. She had been jailed for trafficking a young girl of our neighborhood to Benin for domestic servitude. This created an extreme dilemma for me. I felt disgusted a member of my family would participate in such a trade. On the other hand, my refusal to help her financially would lead my family to see me as a cold person and my inactivity would bring shame on the entire family. The longer she remained in jail, the more time there was for the town to learn about it and create even greater strain on the family. Even though my sister’s actions went directly against my primary core values, I agreed to send funds to bail her out. I did this because she was the only one who knew where the girl had been sent and the only one who could help get the girl returned to her family. In exchange for the bail, my sister agreed to bring the young woman back to her family.

Since that day, I decided to learn more through my sister on how this trade works. As she explained, it begins when women like my sister will receive an “order” from a contact, who has a network of wealthy clients in cities in Benin or Nigeria looking for house servants. Through this network, he will put in his order for young women and girls to traffickers like my sister.  The traffickers begin their search by identifying extremely poor families with many children. These are families that barely have enough food to make it through the day or have undergone some tragedy, such as losing the mother or father, leaving young women under 20. The traffickers take advantage of the family situation and convince the young ladies that this is their chance for a better life, that after three years of helping rich families she will have her own money. The trafficker then smuggles the girls through the town and passes them on to the contact, who has connections with cross border bus drivers.  When the girls reach the city, a message is sent through the same bus driver telling the girl’s family she has gone to Cotounou (or other city) to work for a family and not to worry.  This way the family will stop searching for her. While the family knows which city their daughter is in, they don’t know the address or even the neighborhood.  The young girl leaves her family behind, and is treated a house servant for up to three years. During this time, the family she works for pays the contact approximately $10 each month, but the girl does not see any money until her three year term is up, at which time she only receives a small portion of her earnings. Traffickers are given up to 20% of the girls’ anticipated earnings when they deliver the girls to the contact. This upfront payment is the primary motivator for traffickers like my sister.

What I have shared with you is just a bare sketch of the complexity and totality of this human rights violation.  As my sister related to me, at least half of the young women end up in prostitution or get pregnant, in which case they are sent back to their already impoverished parents. According to UNICEF, 80 percent or more of domestic workers in West Africa are girls, the majority of which are rural girls relocated to urban areas.

Today, a quarter of all the women that participate in Alaffia’s maternal health program are young girls that have been trafficked and returned with unwanted pregnancies. While Alaffia is supporting these women, it does not resolve this injustice. As I have alluded already, the root cause of this is poverty. And, while poverty does not justify such inhumanity, as I have seen over and over, when people are in deep poverty, morality is deflected and decisions are made that keep individuals and communities in poverty or prevent chance of a better life in the future. I see how entrenched this practice in in our society, but remain hopeful that the creation of economic opportunities for these girls and their families will put an end to it.

As for my sister, I gave her a small loan, and she now trades agricultural good, grains and yams, in Kaboli and surrounding villages. She no longer participates in human trafficking. As for me, my decision to pay for her bail continues to bring internal conflict but affirms my dedication to continue to mitigate these practices in our societies.  Since the day I bailed out my sister, I have been working harder than ever to reduce this practice in my country through providing economic opportunities and social empowerment to reduce poverty in our communities.

During this holiday season, I plead to you to improve something in your neighborhood that you see as morally wrong. We as a human family cannot and should not allow for such practices that make our fellow sisters be treated in such a manner. Those of us who do not live under poverty conditions must do everything we can to reduce the pain of the lives of our sisters. The only way we can reduce this suffering is if each and everyone one of us, regardless of geographical location, does something.
Finally, please accept my deepest gratitude for all that you have done in supporting Alaffia to enable us to continue our dedications in Togo. I wish you a very joyous and peaceful holiday.

In peace,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Friday, October 31, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update: Labor Equality for All

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my sincere wish this letter finds you and your family in good health.  The month of October is dedicated to fair trade, during which we as people celebrate the efforts and achievements of this movement. While I am in a celebrating spirit, I cannot help but think of the magnitude of the task before us in creating a just world for all, regardless of our geographical location or birth origin. The task is great because fair trade is in direct competition with free trade.  While fair trade is a social movement with the goal of producers receiving a bigger piece of the price paid by consumers, free trade is defined as international trade unhindered by tariffs and quotas.  It is an unsettling fact that free trade is taking over Africa today, and this is why I cannot completely celebrate our achievements. 

By 2015, seven out of the ten fastest growing economies will be in Africa, yet it is impossible to see how this economic growth is raising my people out of poverty.  In fact, it is making the conditions almost worse, as the new wealth is concentrated on the top, and the capital gains are funneled out of the continent leaving little or nothing for the people at the bottom.  For instance, in Togo, the poverty rate for rural women is 74%, making education for our children unattainable.  The resulting lack of education and opportunity leads to human trafficking and child slavery. Additionally, our women produce 66% of the continent’s food, but only earn 1% of the total income. Such disparity clearly leads to gender inequality.

Selifa Ganiou
Cooperative member, Sokodé, Togo
When I think of these numbers, I see the women behind them and their pain. To me, it means the movement for fair trade of our resources must carry on and we must fight harder.  Otherwise, what does it mean to be human if we can’t ensure full human rights and dignity for all?  The stories and realities of our cooperative members are further proof this fight must continue.  One of our cooperative members, Selifa Ganiou, once shared her own experience with me: “Before my integration into the Alaffia cooperative, I moved to Benin to work in the capitol city and was without my children and my husband.  Now, since I’ve been with the cooperative for the last year, I find it possible to support the needs of my family. For example, I was able to save the life of my older brother thanks to the money that I make.  I have seven children; four are presently in school.  When the other three were school age, I was not able to live with them and did not have the means to keep them in school.  I would like to thank everyone who supports our cooperative and encourage them to take a strong hand to live happily with their families, like I am able to now that I am with the cooperative and no longer have to travel to find work.” Narratives such as these prove to me that a fair opportunity extended to one person can positively impact many more.

While the pictures and the real situations of our people on the ground may be unpleasant, we cannot and must not yield this fight. We must not be discouraged or intimidated. We must continue to dedicate our efforts toward the equality of all members of our human family.  As a result of this absolute commitment, our future generations shall rise from poverty and live in peace.  Most important to remember is that each and every one of us has the power to employ positive change upon one another.

I thank you for your continued caring and support, and believe together we can create justice on earth.

Humbly Yours,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Friday, July 18, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update: Sirina's Story & Togo Trip Recap

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my wish that you and your family are having a good summer and are in good health.  Last week, Rose, our girls and I made it safely back from our three week trip to Togo. Our main objective for the visit was to assist the Alaffia cooperative move to our new location. Before I share with you the progression of the move, I would like to share with you my feelings and experiences during my visit and since my return. No matter how many times I visit Togo, I am always caught off guard by the great suffering of the people, and yet Togo is a place where I find profound peace in my heart. Part of me sees the overwhelming desperation of the human condition and feels a sense that there is no point in trying to better the lives of my people. The other part feels a great level of responsibility that I must do more in mitigating the injustice that permeates our society. At times, I also question why I am the lucky one, as no person pre-chooses what family they are born to and who their life partner will be.  In my case, it is my partner that forever changed my life circumstances from being a farm boy in northern Togo to a man in America trying to revive and preserve the humanity in my people.

New Cooperative in Togo

A specific experience that touched my heart was a visit with Abidé Awesso, Alaffia’s Community Support Coordinator in the Kara Region, to Koundoum, a village that participates in Alaffia’s maternal health initiative.  This was a simple visit to meet the officials of the Koundoum health clinic and the chiefs of Koundoum and surrounding villages to support Abidé in her determination to end female genital mutilation in Togo.  The participation and solidarity of elders is critical for Abidé’s success with this delicate topic.  When we arrived, two things happened that I was not expecting. First, I was not anticipating a large crowd, but all the women from the five surrounding villages that participated in the Alaffia maternal health program for the past three years came together with their children for a welcome ceremony to show their true gratitude. This meant a lot to both Rose and me, as we know this is farming season in Togo, and losing a day of work on the farm is not an easy choice for these families. 

The second thing that touched me was the cultural diversity and richness that continues in my communities. This richness was evident in the traditional drumming during the ceremony. It was the first time in my life as a Togolese native to see the traditional ceramic drums made of two-handled, 30-inch clay jars and goat skin played in Koundoum. In addition, women from Manga village played a specific drum consisting of a clay jar and calabash that is only played by women and creates the most unique sound. I was deeply touched to see and experience these ancient parts of our diverse cultures, and knowing they still exist makes preserving them even more critical.

Traditional drum ceremony

Moreover, on July 5th, we held our first meeting at the new Alaffia Cooperative, which has been named “Alaffia Village” by the cooperative members.  While many words and thoughts were expressed during the meeting, it was Sirina Izetou’s voice that stayed with us.  Sirina joined the Alaffia Cooperative only a couple months ago to weave baskets.  It was toward the end of the meeting when Sirina raised her hand to introduce herself to us and convey a message from her father: 

Sirina Izetou
“I am from a large family of 17 children. Only one of my brothers ever set foot in school. Because of my difficult living conditions, I asked to be recruited by Alaffia and I was accepted. After I received my first paycheck, I sent a portion of it to my father and told him of my recruitment by an organization called Alaffia. What was his reaction when I told him? He started by saying, “How is it that someone like you who has not been to school could be recruited by an organization?” I told him in the town of Sokodé, there is an organization founded by a Togolese residing in the USA which employs poor women to produce shea butter. He persisted with his questions by asking what language the founder communicates with us. I told him he speaks our local languages like Kotokoli and added that he is from Kamboli. That's when he told me that when I met the founder, his wife, his children, his parents, and his collaborators, I must thank them. He ended by wishing that Alaffia grow more than we know. Thank You!”

While Alaffia’s journey is often overwhelming, a sense of courage comes to us when an individual’s life is positively impacted beyond our imaginations.  Sirina’s story also reminds me of the importance of family, and while we have diverse ways of interacting with our parents and at times we do not see eye to eye, we must take care of them and at the same time forgive them, as I could see the joy that Sirina had in her face when she proudly stood in the group and shared her father’s message.
Although we were not able to move the entire cooperative fully into our new location, we were able to install the basket weaving and black soap production. The shea butter production is being moved this week, and I will be returning to Togo in two weeks to complete the remaining sections.  It is our hope that in five years, 1,000 women will be working at Alaffia, double the current 500.
In summary, our ability to move to a new cooperative and to receive messages such as this from Sirina, is made possible by you, our customers, retailers, and friends. You enable Alaffia to keep breathing, and for this I will always be grateful to each and every one of you. I wish you and your family a peaceful rest of summer.

Humbly Yours,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Where Are You Taking Alaffia this Summer?

To request a sticker, pin, or temporary tattoo write us at with your name and address.

Official Rules:
  • Must be 18 years or older and provide a shipping address within the United States.
  • Contest runs from June 25, 2014 4:00 PM PST – July 31, 2014 3:00 PM PST.
  • Picture post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the tag #poweroftheeban enters the giveaway.
  • Winners will be selected by Alaffia's design guru, Ben Wilson (you can check out his work here).
  • Winners will be contacted via Facebook message within 24 hours of the end of the contest.  The winners will have 24 hours to respond to being notified of winning.  If no response is received within 24 hours, a back-up winner will be selected, and will be notified.  The same process applicable to the original winner will apply to all back-up winners.
  • Grand prize winner will win a year supply of Authentic Black Soap which equals one 32oz bottle per month for 12 months
  • One second prize will win a six-month supply of EveryDay Coconut Lip Balm which equals one lip balm per month for 6 months.
  • Ten runner ups will receive one EveryDay Coconut Lip Balm
  • Content deemed inappropriate will not be eligible for entry into the contest 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Alaffia Bike Drive Schedule 2014

We will update this schedule as more bike drives are planned. Please check back regularly during the summer, and be sure to share this with your friends and family.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update: Pride Month

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

I hope this note finds you in good health. The month of June is recognized as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month), and celebrates the great diversity and variety of humanity in the world.  As I prepare to head to Togo, I am thinking that if there is one single thing most characteristic of Alaffia, it is our diversity. While outside Togo, we are all seen as Togolese, in reality, Togo has 42 distinct ethnic groups and each of these groups views themselves as a nation with unique language and culture. Individuals are more likely to represent their own ethnicity first before expressing themselves as Togolese.  Throughout Africa similar diversity has led to persecution, ethnic violence, and systematic denial of economic opportunity for people of ethnicities who are not part of government or military control. At the foundation of the Alaffia cooperative is the notion that as diverse as we are in Togo, we can co-exist in peace together. Ten years later, what was once an idea is now a reality.

In 2003, when I went to Togo to establish the Alaffia cooperative, I felt our differences should not be a reason for persecution; instead, they should be seen as assets. With this in mind, I decided to locate the cooperative in the center of the country in order to be accessible to ethnic groups from both the south and north of Togo, including the most disadvantaged group, the Fulani. To this day, my own ethnic group, the Kaboli, disagree with me for not “putting my own people first.” The fact is my own group does not experience the same type of discrimination that others do, and limiting the cooperative to only my own group would not serve the purpose of empowering those most in need.
Despite the difficulties at the beginning, I continued to believe we can all coexist if we call ourselves beings with humility and loving character. Therefore, I forged ahead, and today what we thought was impossible is blossoming.  Every time I walk into the Alaffia cooperative, it does not feel like a production facility. Instead, there is a sense in the air of celebration, mutual respect and collaboration.  No one has to give up her of his religious or traditional beliefs. The only belief we all have in common is to work and live in peace and with conviction.

While the Alaffia cooperative is a small setting, it convinces me that we can live in a world where we each maintain our beliefs and diversities, yet create a peaceful world that is free of persecution for any reason, be it skin color, religious belief, sexual orientation or any other difference. To me it is the ability to coexist with differences that makes us truly human. 

It is my hope that the Alaffia setting spreads not only through the continent of Africa, but the world. As for me, I will continue to dedicate my life for peace and full human rights for all.
Wishing you a peaceful summer,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pie Day 2014

To celebrate Pi Day we invite you to try out Alaffia's West African Savory Pie. Let us know what you think!

West African Savory Pies
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Makes 10 Small Pies

·         1 1/8 cups self-rising flour
·         ½ tsp baking powder
·         Pinch of sea salt
·         ½ cup butter, softened
·         1 egg, beaten
·         1 egg, separated
·         4 tbsp water
·         1 large onion
·         1 red bell pepper diced
·         1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped fine (omit seeds if you want less heat)
·         2 cloves garlic, minced
·         1 tbsp ginger
·         1 tsp cumin
·         1 tbsp red palm oil
·         ½ lbs. ground beef or tempeh
·         ½ tsp black pepper
·         2 medium potatoes
·         ½ cup chopped kale

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1.       Add flour, baking powder, salt to a bowl then rub in the butter until a crumbly mixture is achieved.
2.       Beat the egg and add half to the flour and butter mixture with a wooden spoon. Add water one tablespoon at a time until the dough can be rolled into a ball.
3.       Lightly flour workspace and roll out the dough until it is just thicker than a nickel. Cut into 7” – 8” circles.
1.       Dice onions and jalapenos, sauté in red palm oil until onions start to brown.
2.       Add ground beef and mash in pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Add ginger, cumin, black pepper, and garlic. Cook meat or tempeh until just starting to brown.
3.       Add diced red pepper and chopped kale, cook with meat or tempeh for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
4.       Boil water in a medium sized pot.
5.       Dice potatoes and add them to boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
6.       Drain potatoes and add to meat or tempeh.
1.       Place about 2 tbsp. of the meat or tempeh in the center of the circle.
2.       Fold dough in half. Moisten edges of dough circle and pinch sides together with a fork.
3.       Light brush tops of pies with egg whites. Place on baking parchment and place in over for 25 minutes, or until slightly brown.
4.       Serve hot.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update: Women's History Month

Dear Friends of Alaffia,
Good early spring to you; it is my sincere wish that this note finds you well.  In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month.  Since Alaffia’s existence and creation are based on celebrating womanhood and advancing the rights for women in my home country, I decided to share with you my thoughts on how we can together continue to fight for equal rights for women around the world.  While you are aware of the meaning of Alaffia, the second name for our cooperative in Togo is Agbanga Karité. Agbanga is the name of the diety of the village of Koussountou, which is 15 kilometers from my home town of Kaboli.  The Agbanga diety is known in central Togo as the woman’s diety, existing for the happiness and protection of women. This diety is also known to grant women their greatest wish. My mother was named after Agbanga, and because of this we named our cooperative after her, as the cooperative was started to honor our mothers by granting their greatest wish – cultural respect for their knowledge and a place where they can work and gain fair income, ultimately enabling them to raise their children and above all, gain a sense of empowerment and value as human beings.  From this, I am more than ever convinced the way to continue to foster full rights for women in central Togo is by continuing to provide them with a place they can work and use their traditional knowledge.
Furthermore, as we go through the Alaffia journey of reducing gender inequality, I often ask myself what future young African women have in this world.  This leads to Ibada Tchala and Abidé Awesso visiting the US for the first time from our community projects and cooperatives in Togo.  It is hard to express in words the presence and image that Ibada and Abidé embody. They are two young ladies who have full knowledge of the Western world and have received Western educations, yet have decided to dedicate their lives to the health and wellbeing of other African women by managing and coordinating the Alaffia maternal health program. They do this with the determination that all women in Togo deserve to enjoy the rights and freedoms that they themselves enjoy.
Abidé joined Alaffia three years ago, and her main focus is on female circumcision, or excision.  While Alaffia’s maternal health project began in 2006, it was not until three years ago that we started focusing on excision.  In 2010, during a visit to Togo, Ibada told me that during her training as a midwife, when she was stationed in Kabou, she encountered many women who had undergone excision. She told me how these women suffer, and how many bleed to death during childbirth. She then told me that if I truly believed in women’s rights, then Alaffia must fund a program for prenatal and delivery care for excised women.  The following year, I visited the community Health Director of Kabou with Rose to gain authorization for Alaffia to provide prenatal care for these women, and this was when Abidé joined Alaffia to open a satellite office near Kabou to begin this project.
While all of us were aware of the health problems these women face because of what was done to them, none of us were prepared for the intensity and gravity, including Abidé.  In her own words she explained, “When I first started, and I started examining these women, I couldn’t sleep at night. I had nightmares from seeing the suffering these women have to endure. For the first six months, I didn’t think I could continue and I wanted to resign.” Excision is the removal, all or in part, of external genitalia through traditional “surgery” performed with razor blades or shards of glass.  It is part of the culture of some ethnic group to perform this on girls once they reach puberty. Since it is an illegal practice, it is done secretly, usually in the fields or brush without any anesthesia or sanitary conditions. In addition to the intense pain and trauma these girls endure, they are also plagued with infections and scaring for life. Thankfully, Abidé found the strength to continue despite the horrors that she witnesses, and she has ensured the safe birth of 610 babies and will continue to work to save these mothers and their children.
It is a fundamental human right to choose what is done to your physical body, and these women, while it is a cultural practice, were excised against their will. Since they do not have the power to halt this practice, we must do so at once.  With your continued support during this year, we will triple our funding of this initiative, and not only provide care during pregnancy, but also treat infections for excised women who are not pregnant, and greatly increase our awareness trainings in our communities.
But we must not forget that as humans, we have come a long way in achieving equal rights for women, but there is a still a long way yet to go, as these rights are mostly reserved for the affluent. As a human family, we must walk together to bring morals and dignity to all women, and we cannot achieve this until all people enjoy the same rights.
I humbly thank you for continuing to support Alaffia. Together, we can take another step towards an equal world.
Peacefully Yours,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Friday, February 14, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update - African American History Month

Dear Friends of Alaffia,
With this brief note in the celebration of African American History Month, I would like to first thank you for all you have done in supporting Alaffia in the empowerment of our communities during the past ten years. Many generations before us have fought and died for the rights that all of us of African origin enjoy today. And in honoring their sacrifices, one must, regardless of skin color or origin, continue the fight for better rights for the generations yet to come.
From the 1800s through the 1960s, the civil rights movement in the USA and fight for desegregation in the South directly contributed to decolonization of our African nations in the 1960s. While the physical presence of European rule is no longer in place in our countries, the continent continues to be plagued by human and economic injustices for the masses.  These injustices are due to a combination of self-infliction on our own people and global economic systems with the sole desire of producing economic gain for the wealthiest. 
As with all my visits to Togo, last month I returned to the USA with great sadness in my heart since the human condition seems to worsen every year in my country despite the efforts of Alaffia.  I see my country being recolonized by foraging emerging economies; our major industries are controlled by them, our precious resources, minerals and lumber taken away, and our peoples cultural history and basic rights are not being respected. I see cargo ships lined up as far as the eye can see at the Togo port. Yet, the streets of Lomé are filled with girls 11 years old or less, selling bean cakes in the hot sun, and more and more families are digging through garbage heaps for recyclables to pay for a day’s worth of food.  I visited a cloth-dying neighborhood of Lomé, next to which is a large dumping area for electronics, where young men break down computer monitors and other electronics in search of valuable metals and parts. Copper sells for $2 per pound, but it takes four days of smashing toxic components without respiratory protection to get this much.
In summary, economic injustice continues in my home country and across the globe, prohibiting the attainment of all other human rights. To fight this injustice, I put out a calling to my own people, to the powerful in the West, and to the emerging economies to compensate the poor fairly for their resources and labor.  For your part, I urge you to support fair trade initiatives and, most importantly, activities that do not destroy indigenous cultures. I am optimistic that by continuing this work together, we can bring full economic rights for all our communities and our future generations, and in the process preserve cultural diversity and indigenous knowledge.

Peacefully Yours,

Olowo-n'djo Tchala

Friday, January 31, 2014

Alaffia’s Response to the State of the Union

Today, women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.  She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.  It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.  This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.” - President Barack Obama

This week the President said, in his State of the Union address, if you put in a hard day’s work, you deserve fair compensation. He also stated that raising the wage for workers is good for the economy and for America. At Alaffia we believe this applies not only to the United States, but across the globe. Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work and the opportunity to provide for their family. We are working to make this happen by paying fair prices for raw materials, fair wages to employees, and through our empowerment projects. If we come together to make this a reality, not just in the United States, but globally, everyone will have the ability to lead an empowered life.
Please share these images to help raise awareness of the benefits of fair trade and a fair wage.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Red Palm Oil - A Cause and a Recipe

Orangutan in the wild - courtesy
of wikicommons
With the recent surge in popularity of palm oil in both natural food and personal care products, there has been a major concern of the effects on orangutans habitats from the growing and harvesting practices of the oil. In many countries forests are cut down to make way for palm oil plantations.  In places like South-East Asia these forests are the only natural habitat for orangutans.  Over the past few years the number of orangutan deaths has increased to nearly 5,000 yearly, and with only 60,000 estimated orangutans left in the world, the species is facing a very real threat of going extinct.

At Alaffia, we use red palm oil and other oils in several of our products.  However, our natural West African palm oil is grown and harvested by small-scale farmers in the Maritime region of Togo. Oil palms are native to West Africa, and have been grown as part of multi-cropped sustainable small farms for centuries. Furthermore, it is important to point out that orangutans do not exist at all in Africa.

If you have purchased some Alaffia Red Palm Oil recently, and are looking for some recipes to use it in, look no further. Below is a recipe that was recently featured in Whole Foods' online magazine Dark Rye.

Black-Eyed Peas in Red Palm Oil
Serves 10
·         1 cup red palm oil
·         2 large red onions, thinly sliced
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
·         1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (omit seeds if you want less heat)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
·         1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
·         1 pound tilapia or other whitefish
·         3 large carrots, cut in ¼-inch slices
·         4 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed or 6 cups cooked beans
·         1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
·         2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
·         2 cups green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
·         Rice, for serving

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet (the larger the diameter the better). Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeños, and cook until onions are caramelized (add ½ teaspoon salt to develop flavor). Add tomato sauce and remaining ½ teaspoon salt (if desired) and cook until tomatoes are reduced. (Note: Adding a little salt at every step develops the flavor.) Add fish and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until fish is cooked through. Add carrots, cover and cook until crisp-tender. Add black-eyed peas, bell pepper, tomatoes and green beans to the pan, stir gently and thoroughly; cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked to desired consistency. Serve over rice.

For more recipes check out the latest issue of Dark Rye, and while your there please watch an amazing video taken by a team that went to Togo to see firsthand the amazing work Alaffia is doing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Whole Foods' Dark Rye and Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People

Alaffia had the honor of working with Whole Foods Market on a video and story for their online magazine Dark Rye. Whole Foods sent a team to Togo last month with Alaffia's founders to document the Alaffia fair trade cooperatives at work. The compelling video can be viewed below and the article can be seen here.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 - Looking Forward

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my wish this letter finds you and your entire family in good health. I am writing to you today to share my outlook for 2014 so we may together continue to strengthen Alaffia with the end result of empowering our communities.  But first, I would like to present my gratitude to you for all that you have done during 2013 in supporting Alaffia; the extra effort and guidance that each of you has granted Alaffia during 2013 has made it possible for us to conduct our largest community projects to date.  I would like to equally thank you again for all that you contributed towards making our 10-year Empowerment Tour a true success.

Looking towards 2014, I believe with great confidence that it will be a good year for Alaffia. By March, our entire line will have a completely new package refresh, in which we have incorporated your feedback and suggestions.  Our new packaging will ensure Alaffia is noticeable across all the brands, and will make it easier to identify which items are best for personal skin and hair needs. 

On our Togo side, it is with great joy in my heart that I inform you the Alaffia cooperative in Sokodé will be moving to a new location in May.  Our current cooperative location will be transformed into a Maternal Health Training Clinic, fully staffed by Alaffia.  This will lead to an additional 20% expenditure of Alaffia community projects towards the existing Maternal Health Program, with the goal of saving 2,000 women from unnecessary maternal death.  To me this will be Alaffia’s greatest impact in our communities.

Finally, because of the belief and conviction that many of you have, I believe 2014 will be a very meaningful year to Alaffia, and I wish you and your family a very happy new year.

Humbly Yours,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala