The keystone of Atacora Essential's mission is its unique Fair Partnership mission. We are seeking to empower African communities through sustainable economic development by revaluing indigenous resources such as Baobab and Neem. Our efforts to encourage ownership and investment among stakeholders can be seen as an enhancement of the Fair Trade Principles that are our guide. I'd like to present readers with a couple of examples of our Fair Partnership initiative in action.
SUPPORTING HIGHER EDUCATION
Atacora Essential's production facility and office are situated in the villages of Kouporgou and Boukombe, in the Atacora region of northern Benin. People there are poor despite abundant and valuable resources. Atacora Essential applies a percentage of its revenues for community driven development projects in the fields of education, health and the environment.
Access to good education is not easy, and there are few students who reach the Baccalaureate or University level from the area. We have created an initiative to help students at that level succeed and eventually use their knowledge and skill to help advance the community. I picked up 3 laptop computers from the Washington State government surplus store and am going to install the open source Ubuntu operating system on them. They will be set up in our office for students to use for their education projects! I got the idea because Clemence, my girlfriend, was using our office computer to work on her Masters thesis. If we can encourage more local people to get advanced degrees, it can have great implications for the future of the community.
GLOBAL SHEA 2012
Atacora's Executive Director in Benin, Jacob Ghanaba, and Steve Smith, our valued Peace Corps attache, recently participated in the Global Shea 2012 conference in Cotonou. Although Shea Butter is not one of our principal products, it does figure into our plan because our Baobab Fruit Pulp, Baobab Oil and Neem Oil are compementary ingredients for value added products. In fact, Atacora Essential will be starting production of African Black Soap using all of these ingredients (and some other secret ones unique to the Boukombe area) very shortly. The urban markets in West Africa have responded well to our products, and I made sure the team went to the conference in order to network with other producers, forge collaborations and improve our brand recognition. The team has an ownership stake and profit incentive to develop a strong local market. This is truly an enhancement of Fair Trade and a co-creation of all team members.