Thursday, July 9, 2009

Of Shea Butter, a Women's Cooperative, and Us

Do you know about Shea Butter?

I admit I never heard of the stuff until I was in Togo and saw where a Fair Trade group called Alaffia manufactures the product. It was an amazing element of our latest medical mission that was well worth the time.

One of our team members knew about a women's cooperative in Sokode, Togo that ships items to the U.S. in efforts to promote fair trade. Of the importance of this approach the Alaffia group says:

"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. Fair trade is environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable and gives local communities the opportunity to self empower."

"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. 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."

"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 will go directly back to our community in the form of community enhancement projects, AIDS and malaria outreach, and educational scholarships. We believe in 'building African self-empowerment the moral way' and truly appreciate your involvement in reaching our goals."

Learn more about Alaffia and support them if you use Shea Butter. Tell them that United Methodist medical team that visited Sokode (So Ko Day) sent you.

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