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Alaffia Empowerment Project

Alaffia’s success is not simply measured by profit.  Our success is measured by empowerment. Empowerment Projects are Alaffia’s mission in action, funded by the sales of Alaffia products. Alaffia invests in our communities because it is our moral responsibility and to ensure African resources empower African communities. The goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Our Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM Eradication, Eyeglasses and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.


••• 3,237 BIRTHS FUNDED •••

Each year in West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications with pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, an African woman has a 1 in 32 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 2,400 in Europe (UNICEF, 2012). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.

While the problem seems insurmountable, it is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality. In 2006, we started our Maternal Health Project following the World Health Organization’s recommendations for reducing maternal death rates. Our Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach to the immediate problem. Each year, we fund full pre- and post-delivery care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 3,558 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system.

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of our women’s health efforts. In 2007, we began to partner with local Togolese health clinics  to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. We believe saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.






The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. If our youth are helped with the dilemmas they face, such as harsh poverty and lack of infrastructure, they will be empowered to lead their communities in the future. Since we founded our shea butter cooperative in 2003, we have provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in our Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on poor families. We also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of five schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 11,700 recipients. We now partner with retail stores to collect school supplies – if you would like to help collect pens and pencils for this project, please contact our office at 1-800-664-8005.
In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school. Now, with over 6,300 bicycles sent and distributed, we are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.
We collect used bicycles in and around our communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of our retailers, volunteers, and Alaffia staff. All costs of this project - from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance and follow-up - are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings our communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead our communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit or email us at:


••• 42,625 TREES PLANTED •••

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 42,625 trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate erosion and improve food security for their families. We also conduct trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Through our Alternative Fuels Project, we investigate sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.



In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retailer locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has  collected and distributed over 5,700 pairs of glasses.


As part of our Maternal Health Initiatives, Alaffia aims to educate women about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or excision. FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The procedure can result in severe bleeding, infections, life-threatening complications in childbirth, and increased risk of newborn deaths. (World Health Organization)
Abidé Awesso, our Maternal Health & FGM Eradication Coordinator in the Bassar region of Togo, has been working with Alaffia since 2012. Hodalo Katakouna was one of Abidé’s first patients and one of the first women to be supported as part of our Maternal Health and FGM Eradication project. Following, Abidé recounts Hodalo’s story: “
I had just started in my position with Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project, and was on one of my very first village field visits. I was headed to the health clinic in Tchatchaminadé, a small village along the rocky road from Bassar to Bafilo through the Chain du Togo mountain range. I was going to Tchatchaminadé for a meeting with village officials and maternal health participants on the adverse consequences of female genital mutilation.
While driving my motorcycle along the one lane path to the village, I saw a pregnant woman sitting on a rock writhing in pain. I stopped to see what was wrong. She explained since the beginning of her pregnancy, she had not been feeling well. She had not been to see a doctor because she couldn’t afford it, but seeing how her health was declining more and more each day, she decided that morning to go to the clinic in the nearby village. Sadly, she didn’t even have someone to come with her, and after walking 5 miles, was too tired and ill to continue her journey. I decided to bring her with me on my motorcycle even though it would make me late to my meeting. We traveled to the Tchatchaminadé clinic together where she received medical attention and was able to rest.
After she rested and was feeling more comfortable, with the permission of the clinic’s doctor, I examined her myself (I am a trained midwife). During my examination, I noted that Hodalo had undergone female genital mutilation as a child, and had a serious chronic pelvic infection as a result. Her infection was so advanced that it made me concerned for her pregnancy and even her life. The infection, resulting pain, and physical stress were the source of her sickness. Together, the clinic’s nurse practitioner and I decided to refer her to the Regional Hospital of Bassar where she would receive better care.
Hodalo’s infection was so serious she required intravenous antibiotics. Because of this, and that we were worried for the health of the baby, she remained hospitalized for two weeks. All medical expenses were covered by Alaffia for the entire stay. During her stay at the hospital, Hodalo received more information about Alaffia’s program which she had benefited from. She accepted the offer to join the program, and began taking part in the meetings with Alaffia and other women who were participating. All Alaffia maternal health participants meet regularly to discuss hygiene, nutrition, and how to end FGM practices in their communities. Three months after Hodalo’s hospitalization, she gave birth to a little girl. Thankfully, she had a complication-free birth, and I was able to deliver her child easily and safely. Afterwards, she presented the child to me as a sign of gratitude and said, “This child is ours now because without the help of Alaffia, neither myself nor this child would have survived. I will call her Alaffia.”