Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap Unscented - 32 oz. (950ml)
Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap Unscented is an "all in one" option for cleaning, and is ideal for faces and babies, shaving, shampooing, and as a general hand and body wash. Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap Unscented caters to individuals with even the most sensitive skin. Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap Unscented is suitable for all skin and hair types.
Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap Unscented is/has:
- Domestic Packaging
- Fair Trade
- No Parabens
- No Animal Testing
- No SLS
- No Synthetic Fragrance
What is African Black Soap?
In West Africa, authentic black soap is known by its Yoruba name, Ossé Dudu. "Dudu" means the color black, which comes from the extensive "cooking" of the soap to the point of charcoal. Many cultures in West Africa use charcoal to detoxify and purify the skin, and this is an integral aspect of Alaffia's true African black soap.
Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap is made from a centuries old recipe of handcrafted shea butter and indigenous West African palm kernel oil. Saponification is provided by adding ashes to the hot oils, then cooking the soap for six hours. The final step is to dry and cure the soap in the sun for three weeks.
Certified Fair Trade
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. They believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self empower.
What is Fair Trade?
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 Price - base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted higher than the open market price
- Price Premium - a percentage above the base fair trade price is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities.
- Working Conditions - Fair Trade operators must adhere to basic human and labor rights - including the right to organize, no child labor, access to health care, and so on.
- Environmental Stewardship - Fair Trade organizations must minimize environmental impact.
What does Fair Trade Certified mean?
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.
Why is Fair Trade of shea butter important?
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 Alaffia's cost higher?
- Nut prices - They pay 15-25% above market price for shea nuts
- Fair wages - Alaffia's cooperative members receive a salary that is more than 4 times the average family income in Togo.
- Benefits - Cooperative members also receive full medical care, employment security, and one paid month of vacation each year.
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. They encourage empowerment through their community projects, their women's cooperatives, and education and involvement in their customer communities. They firmly believe that the cooperation of people across the world is as essential part of building sustainability in all their communities.
What Does Empowerment Mean?
As individuals who have the good fortune of education and experience, it is their moral duty to be conscious and aware of the situations of people who are less fortunate. By empowerment, they 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. They 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.
Empowerment through Fair Trade
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 their women's cooperatives, they look at what these women have to offer that no one else does - their unique skills, traditions and knowledge. Then, they 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.
Community Empowerment Projects
While individual women are empowered through their participation in their cooperatives, they also strongly believe in spreading the empowerment to the community level. Through the sales of their shea butter products, they raise funds for community projects in central Togo aimed at alleviating poverty and advancing gender equality. These projects target problems that they 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. Alaffia's projects include:
- Bicycles for Education - Since 2005, they have collected and sent over 3,000 used bicycles to disadvantaged students in Togo so they can get to and from school.
- Maternal Health - Each year, Alaffia provides pre and post natal care to 70 women in central Togo to help reduce high maternal death rates in West Africa.
- School Supplies & Repairs - Alaffia donates metal roofs, seats and school supplies to schools in rural Togo to help communities education their youth.
- Reforestation & Environment - To combat effects of climate change and deforestation by planting trees and building home biogas units.
Fair Trade Certification
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.
American Community Involvement
One of their 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 their communities. There are several ways in which they do this:
- Alaffia's Products: Each and every product contains information on their community empowerment and gender equality efforts.
- Volunteer Opportunities: They welcome volunteers for their bicycles for education donation drives and other projects. They also have volunteer opportunities at their facility in Lacey, WA.
- Trainings, Presentations and Tours: They welcome visits and tours of their facility in Lacey, WA. Here, they also offer occasional soap making classes and trainings. In addition, they make several public presentations across the USA and Canada each year.
About Alaffia Moral Beginnings - Moral Goals
Every day they hear news about natural and man-made disasters, wars, environmental degradation - and it is easy to become pessimistic about humanity and the future. Problems include, but are not limited to:
- Growing disparities between those who have and those who have not
- Increasing populations while resources continue to decline
- Gender inequality, child poverty, even child trafficking and slavery abound
- Degraded, abused environments that are losing resiliency and ability to recover
- Global climate change is disrupting formerly predictable rain patterns and water availability
But at the same time, they live in an age of unparalleled communication and dialog between communities across the world. The global connections give us advantages and opportunities as individuals to make changes for the better. Furthermore, information is readily available to most everyone in the world - and when informed, they can do anything.
Alaffia's Moral Duty
They firmly believe that it is their duty as educated, healthy, and determined individuals to take advantage of information and communication to work towards bettering the conditions of people and communities who are not so advantaged. They also understand that truly eradicating poverty, gender inequality or environmental collapse requires cooperation and action by all levels of society - individuals, governments, organizations of every scope and scale. However, until this occurs, they have pledged their lives to what they can do - helping their communities in central Togo sustain themselves through the fair trade of their indigenous resource - shea butter. The more each of us can do, the closer they are to everyone working together.
How Alaffia Began
Today, Africa is considered the poorest continent on Earth. Seventy-seven percent of Africans live on less than $2 per day, and women and children make up the majority of this number. African families must also cope with the impacts of diseases such as AIDS and malaria, high unemployment rates, and increasing problems with air and water pollution, including access to potable water. Africans are still experiencing colonial legacies that impede the well-being of the people, such as the systematic exclusion of women from the formal education system and barriers to adequate market information to get fair value for their products and resources.
Olowo-n'djo Tchala was born and raised in central Togo in the village of Kaboli, and experienced this discrepancy between the extreme poverty and the natural wealth of the African continent first hand. He was the sixth of eight children, and he and his siblings shared a 2.5 x 3 meter room with their mother. His mother was a farmer, and Olowo-n'djo began working on her farm at the age of 5. By his 10th year, he was working on other farms as a way to help his mother provide for his younger siblings, since his father was unable to provide for all of his 32 children. Like Olowo-n'djo's older siblings, he dropped out of school by the 6th grade. During this time, he continued to work on farms and do other jobs to earn money, including collecting and selling shea nuts at the local market.
In 1996, Olowo-n'djo met my wife Rose Hyde, who is from a farming community in rural Washington State. Rose was in Kaboli as a Peace Corps Volunteer with the agenda of educating farmers on sustainable farming techniques. Two years after meeting Rose, he joined her in the United States. Olowo-n'djo began learning English immediately, and in 2004, he earned a Bachelors of Science in Organizational Studies, with emphasis on Global Economic Systems from the University of California, Davis. During his studies, he focused on trying to understand why the African continent is so poor, yet contains vast natural resources. His studies reinforced what he had learned as a child, that for Africa to rise out of poverty requires Africans directly participating and leading themselves rather than relying on the World Bank or other ex-colonial institutions.
Before his final year of school, in the summer of 2003, Olowo-n'djo decided that the urgency of reducing poverty could not wait for him to complete his studies. At this time, they began the process of establishing an organization that would empower communities while preserving culture and resources. Since Rose and Olowo-n'djo did not have any surplus funds, they applied to their local bank for a business loan of $50,000. As soon as the bank released the funds, Olowo-n'djo returned to Togo to organize women to handcraft shea butter.
Shea butter is the only resource that fit the criteria for their sustainable business plan to truly empower communities. First, the resource had to be environmentally sustainable. Shea trees grow wild over sixteen West and Central African countries. They are perfectly adapted to the savanna ecosystem, and require no fertilizer or irrigation. Furthermore, the shea nuts have been collected for thousands of years without impacting the shea tree populations and re-growth. Second, the resource had to be traded on the world market. Shea butter has been globally traded for centuries, and, more importantly, the global market price did not fairly reflect the labor involved in crafting shea butter. Olowo-n'djo realized that by paying even slightly more for this resource could greatly impact the women, much like his own mother, that collect shea nuts and sell shea butter to feed, clothe and school their children. Thirdly, and most importantly, every step of traditional shea butter extraction involves a great deal of cultural knowledge and practices. He felt strongly that true economic empowerment can only be achieved in Africa if the cultural fabric of their diverse societies is acknowledged in economic exchange.
Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative
Fairly traded, handcrafted Shea Butter benefits the communities that produce it as well as the communities that purchase it. The fair trade of their handcrafted shea butter and shea butter skin care products is bringing income to and empowering their communities in Togo, while making indigenous, sustainable and effective skin care available to the global community. Members of the Alaffia Shea Butter cooperative have the opportunity to use their traditional knowledge and skills to support their families. Furthermore, they dedicate a minimum of 10% of all sales to community empowerment projects in Togo, so the impact of fair trade handcrafted shea butter reaches beyond the cooperative.
Alaffia's customers also benefit because they are receiving an authentic product directly from the source. The same care and philosophies are applied when crafting their creams, lotions, and soaps in Lacey, WA. Rose grew up learning about the health benefits of indigenous plants in rural Washington State. She has taken this knowledge, her extensive education in Enthobotany, Biology and Ecology and created all their formulations - combining their handcrafted oils with other quality ingredients into highly effective, affordable skin care products. They believe customers should have access to body care products made with unrefined, natural ingredients. In turn, you - their customers help spread their message, provide feedback and ideas, and volunteer your time to help with their projects.