Who: Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Alaffia Founder
Olowo-n’djo grew up in Togo, West Africa, sharing a small room with his mother and seven siblings.
He was inspired by his mother, who continuously found ways to demonstrate kindness and generosity to those around her. She instilled in him a piece of her spirit that has guided him throughout his work and life. She helped teach Olowo-n’djo the importance of community.
After dropping out of school in sixth grade to help support his family through farming and collecting shea nuts, he witnessed the unfair systems that the women around him faced when trading valuable indigenous resources. Together with his partner in both life and business, Prairie Rose Hyde, he founded Alaffia in 2003. He met Rose in his home village of Kaboli, Togo in 1996 where she was invited to serve as an environmental volunteer in the Peace Corp. From the beginning, the two shared a desire to positively impact humankind. They returned to the US determined to make a difference in West Africa. In 2004, armed with his understanding of the value of indigenous West African resources and an understanding of sustainable business ideologies, he launched Alaffia's ﬁrst collective.
It was in the United States where he was determined to continue his education, that he began with ESL classes, eventually earning his GED and then going on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in organizational theory from UC Davis. While earning his bachelor’s, Olowo-n’djo realized he couldn’t ignore the yearning he felt to contribute to improving the way of life for the communities like the one he grew up in by providing them a more sustainable and equitable future. He was compelled to fight the injustices he faced and witnessed growing up in the small village of Kaboli in Northern Togo, West Africa, including gender inequality and poverty in West Africa through sustainable health, education and environmental initiatives.
What: The Alaffia Foundation
The Alaffia Foundation (T.A.F) is a 501c3 non-profit works to allocate donated funds from the sales of their Alaffia products, to need-based community empowerment projects in Togo, West Africa. T.A.F calls on volunteers whose contributions are critical. They partner with others, such as the Whole Planet Foundation, in related missions to leverage their impact. They stay abreast of needs and opportunities, all while monitoring their effectiveness and assessing feasibility. They conduct the activities and training that bring their mission to fruition and ensure that the needs, resources, and leadership of communities are throughout their structure. Togo staff ranges between 30-35 team members. All are Togolese nationals representing several of Togo’s many ethnic groups and about 90% of their staff are women, and women hold four out of five of their management roles. T.A.F has 1 member in the US, in Olympia, Washington.
How: Traditional Soap Making Techniques
Alaffia’s Authentic African Black Soap is made from a centuries-old recipe of handcrafted shea butter and Orangutan-safe West African palm oil. Saponification is reached by adding potash to the hot oils, then cooking it for six hours. The last step is curing the soap in the sun for three weeks, resulting in a natural and highly effective soap for all skin types.
The other soaps are made with a shea butter and coconut oil base. The shea butter and coconut oil are mixed together and heated. A natural saponifier made from ashes of plantain leaves and tree barks is added, and then the mixture is cooked over heat, stirred constantly for 30- 60 minutes until the hot saponification process is completed. The hot soap is scooped into a large metal bowl, where the soap expands up into a palm-frond basket and cools. Cooled soap is placed onto palm frond mats to dry in the sun.
Where & Why: Togo, West Africa and the Mission
Olowo-n’djo and Alaffia’s mission is empowerment, not charity. They believe it’s their moral obligation to empower the communities in Togo, one of the poorest countries in the world, to rise up out of poverty by sharing their economic value with the rest of the world. The Alaffia products are made with clean, plant-based, and fair trade ingredients. Their methods and ideals are rooted in ancient African tradition that evoke the iconic beauty of African people, landscapes and art—they’re proud to share this with the global market.