a•laf•fi•a \ ah-la-fee-uh \ noun. A common greeting or valediction originating from central Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Alafﬁa means a state of peace, health and well-being.
One of the most successful fair-trade body-care organizations in the natural products industry is located in Thurston County. Most residents are probably not even aware of this innovative company right here in the South Sound. Most are probably also not aware of the significant, life-changing impact Alaffia is bringing to residents of West Africa.
Olowo-n’djo Tchala was born and raised in the village of Kaboli in the West African nation of Togo. There he shared a single small room with his mother and seven siblings. The boy dropped out of school in the sixth grade when his family couldn’t afford the tuition. In the years after, Tchala worked alongside his mother on her farm.
In 1996 Tchala met and fell in love with a Peace Corps volunteer, Prairie Rose Hyde, while she worked in Kaboli. After her service ended, the couple moved to the United States with a shared goal: ﬁnding a way to alleviate poverty in West Africa.
Hyde entered a graduate program at the University of California, Davis. She studied international agricultural development and ethnobotany, the scientiﬁc study of relationships between people and plants. Tchala studied English and earned a degree in Organizational Theory. Determined to make a difference in his home country, the native son, along with Hyde, created Alaffia, based in Tumwater.
Alafﬁa’s success is not measured simply by profit. For this innovative company, success is measured by empowerment, with the goal to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality in Togo. Special projects, including a maternal health clinic, school construction and reforestation efforts, have made a significant impact on Togolese communities.
Doing good business has been an extremely successful model for Alaffia. The company has expanded its product lines from natural body care to hair care products and African home textiles featuring
artisan hand-stamped fabrics. Alaffia’s recipe for success is simple: “helping our communities in West Africa sustain themselves through the fair trade of their indigenous resources. The more each of us can do, the closer we are to everyone working together.”
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