Accessible Energy in TogoTogo is a country in western Africa that is bordered by Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. Togo’s government is currently working on increasing the rate of access to electricity for its citizens. The country has already made significant progress, advancing from 17% in 2000 to 35% in 2016. However, there are large disparities in electricity access between urban and rural areas. Electricity rates are 87% in urban areas and only 7% in rural areas. Currently, one million households in Togo are without power.

Togo’s government has set ambitious goals to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030. The country cites three main obstacles to this goal. First, Togo has limited experience with independent power producers. Second, there are technical issues concerning the aging infrastructure. Finally, Togo does not have a plan to integrate on-grid and off-grid connection goals yet.

Initiatives Promoting Rural Accessible Energy in Togo

A large part of Togo’s energy project targets improving access to energy in rural areas. Many rural communities are not reachable by the standard electricity grid. Therefore, the government is looking into various off-grid options to support the three million people who are not reachable by the grid.

In 2017, Togo launched an initiative called “CIZO.” This initiative seeks to increase rural electrification to 40% by the year 2022. In order to do this, the government is working with off-grid companies to offer solar power to rural communities. The goal is to build 300 small solar plants across the country and distribute solar kits to 500,000 households. So far, 35,000 households have received solar kits.

Looking Towards a Renewable Future

In addition to solar energy, Togo is invested in creating other sources of renewable and accessible energy for its communities. The country has a goal of reaching 50% energy from renewable sources.

In July 2020, Togo announced that it will begin the construction of a new biogas reference laboratory at the West African Centre for Scientific Services on Climate Change (WASCAL) at the University of Lomé. As stated by Komi Agboka, director of the WASCAL, “the future laboratory will enable Togo’s enormous biomass potential to be further exploited through the development of research capacity and the demonstration of innovative biogas production technologies.”

The construction of this laboratory is part of the larger Programme for the Development of Renewable Energy in Togo (Pdert) which launched on February 27, 2019. This project will assess Togo’s renewable energy resources, develop the storage and distribution of clean energy, and find economically sustainable models.

Togo’s government emphasis on finding renewable energy sources has garnered international attention. Togo’s Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Agency recently won third place in the Ashden 2020 Award for its renewable energy development policy. This is an award given by the British organization Ashden and seeks to highlight countries that show “systemic innovation for energy access.”

Accessible energy in Togo will take many significant steps to achieve, but with the persistence and commitment of both private energy providers and academic institutions, this goal is realistic. Togo’s renewable energy initiatives show that even without the large budgets of developed countries, it is still possible to make meaningful progress towards sustainable and accessible energy.

– Antoinette Fang
Photo: Flickr

ECHOTucked away in North Fort Myers, Fla., just minutes away from a bustling downtown and warm sunny beaches, sits the Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization global farm. ECHO, as it is more commonly known, was founded in the early 1970s primarily to provide solutions directly for Haiti, particularly those that would improve the nation’s agricultural development. By 1981, ECHO began developing agricultural solutions for multiple nations and continues to carry on that mission today as it is working to fight global hunger and poverty. With better agricultural solutions, ECHO is helping farmers across the globe increase their agricultural output and understanding of more sustainable farming practices. This, in turn, helps improve the farmers’ standard of living.

Areas of Impact

Southwest Florida’s unique climate allowed ECHO, in 2001, to develop six different areas of tropical climate zones on the global farm. This allows researchers and farmers to test different growing methods and food production for different nations. Today, the farm includes tropical lowlands, tropical highlands, monsoon, semi-arid, rainforest clearing, community garden and urban garden as its areas of focus. ECHO spreads the technology it has developed through its Regional Impact Centers in Thailand, Tanzania and Burkina Faso, delivering information and improved farming practices to Asia, East Africa and West Africa, respectively.

The Importance of Seeds

Seed development and protection is a primary focus of ECHO. A heavy rain season can harm seeds for future planting and can set farmers back on producing a bountiful crop. Also, without diversifying the types of crops they grow, farmers are at risk of losing food and money without having the right seeds. ECHO in Florida is home to a seed bank that provides up to 300 different types of seeds to farmers around the world. These seeds are adaptable to different climates and terrains and help farmers diversify their crop production, allowing them to grow crops that are best suited for their environment.

Another problem that farmers face is keeping seeds dry and ready for the growing season — a difficult goal to achieve with humid climates and high temperatures. ECHO Regional Impact Center in Thailand is utilizing earthbags in its seed banks, which can keep seeds up to 16.5°C cooler than the surrounding environment. Seed drying cabinets also keep seeds dry by using heat and air circulation to keep seeds in a low humid environment so that they can be stored for a year or more.

Successful Practices

ECHO’s agricultural developments have been successfully used in communities around the world. In Togo, farmers are using resources provided by ECHO’s West Africa Regional Impact Center for the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI. SRI “reduces the need for water by half, requires only 10% of the seeds traditionally needed, and can increase yield by 20-100%.” This leads to farmers earning more than they would by using traditional farming methods. SRI is a practice that initially requires more labor and teaching to fully understand. However, with ECHO’s Regional Impact Centers, the organization is spreading the technology to help fight global hunger and poverty.

ECHO’s vital impact rests on teaching methods that farmers can share with each other. When one farmer has a successful crop, he is more likely to share the new methods he used with other farmers so that they can also have strong crop yields. This provides communities with more food, which helps to fight global hunger, and with more crops to sell, which helps lift farmers out of extreme poverty. By teaching farmers better practices that are sustainable and easily accomplished, ECHO is helping people around the world become more efficient and self-sustaining.

– Julia Canzano
Photo: Pixabay

Eight Facts About Education in Togo
The Togolese Republic (Togo) is a small West African country on the Gulf of New Guinea that borders Ghana and Benin. With a GDP of $4.75 billion and a GNI per capita of $610, Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. Togo’s education system has faced development setbacks due to various political, monetary and societal reasons yet it remains one of the stronger education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. These eight facts about education in Togo demonstrate the progress made in certain areas and the need for progress in others.

8 Facts About Education in Togo

  1. Primary Schooling is Compulsory and Free — Due to its history as the French colony of Togoland, education in Togo follows the French model of primary, secondary and higher schooling. Starting at age six, primary education is mandatory for six years. Prior to 2008, public school fees created barriers for impoverished families to send their children to school, but in 2008, UNICEF partnered with Togo’s government to abolish public primary school fees. Togo’s net primary school enrollment was 90 percent in 2017 which is high.
  2. Secondary Education Enrollment Rates are Low — In 2017, only 41 percent of the children eligible enrolled in secondary education. This is an improvement from 2000 when only 23.53 percent of children enrolled in secondary schooling; however, the large enrollment gap between primary and secondary education remains due to costly secondary education fees, poor quality of primary education and the lack of access to schooling in rural areas.
  3. Togo has had Recurring Teacher Strikes — Since 2013, teachers have gone on lengthy strikes numerous times because they were unsatisfied with their working conditions, large class sizes or pay. Teacher salaries in Togo range from $33 to $111 per month while the minimum wage is $64 per month. After months of strikes, the Togo government signed an agreement with trade unions in the spring of 2018, but the future will tell whether this will improve teaching conditions.
  4. Enrollment Rates Do Not Translate into Higher Student Success — Despite having more children enrolled in school, Togo has had increased amounts of students repeating school years and failing to graduate. Several students (37.6 percent) dropped out of primary school in 2012 and 32.42 percent of secondary school students dropped out in 2015.
  5. There is a Gender Disparity in Togo Schooling — In every level of schooling except pre-primary, there are 10 percent fewer girls enrolled than boys. The literacy rate for males in Togo is 77.26 percent and only 51.24 percent for women, which shows a large literacy gap between the sexes. Early or forced marriages force many girls to leave school. International NGO’s such as Girls Not Brides are working in Togo to meet its commitment to end child, early and forced marriages by 2030.
  6. Low Educational Equality for the Rural and Poor — Togo is made up of primarily rural areas and 69 percent of its rural households live under the poverty line as of 2015. Secondary schools tend to be sparse in rural areas with few resources while urban areas tend to have more clusters of secondary schools with more resources. Sixty-eight percent of eligible males and 54 percent of females in urban areas enroll in secondary education while only 45 percent of eligible males and 33 percent of females in rural areas attend secondary school.
  7. The Literacy Rate is Improving Among the Youth of Togo — Adult literacy is around 64 percent while the literacy of those aged 15-25 is 84 percent in Togo. This fact about education in Togo shows progress within creating basic and more widespread educational services such as free primary schooling.
  8. Togo’s Education Strategy for 2014-2025 has Four Important Objectives — The government objectives for improving education include developing quality universal primary education by 2022 and extending pre-primary coverage to rural and poorer areas. In addition, it plans to develop quality secondary, vocational and higher education and decrease the illiteracy rate.

These eight facts about education in Togo show that there is still much to improve in terms of greater educational equality, the availability of key educational resources, gender equality and creating a system of quality education levels. Progress, however, is still occurring as school enrollment and literacy rates increase substantially. The combined efforts of the Togo government and outside organizations are helping accomplish Togo’s education goals.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr


Why is Togo PoorTogo is a relatively small sub-Saharan nation that is situated along the Gulf of Guinea with a population of approximately 7.6 million people. A 2008 UNICEF report found that 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lived below the poverty line, making it one of the “world’s poorest countries.”

Why is Togo poor? And what is being done to combat poverty in Togo?

Here are six factors that can help begin to answer the question “why is Togo poor?”

  1. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook stated that the adult literacy rate in Togo is 63.7 percent, which makes it difficult for Togo to participate in the rapidly evolving global economy. Furthermore, young girls are often not able to attend schools because they are wedded off at a young age—and many families often have to sacrifice education in order to allocate money to food.
  2. The United Nations reported that over 100,000 people live with HIV/AIDS and nearly 68,000 children are left without families as a result—yet absent a robust healthcare system (and the appropriate resources), Togo has a difficult time responding to and controlling disease outbreaks. Life expectancy in Togo is only 65 years.
  3. There is widespread water insecurity. Only 63 percent of the Togolese people have access to sanitary water available for consumption often leading to the spread of waterborne diseases.
  4. Poor governmental infrastructure that pervades Togo often hinders foreign investment in agriculture, which accounts for a large proportion of exports. Government corruption is also prevalent which often hinders meaningful policy action and prevents democracy.
  5. Child labor and sexual exploitation prevent Togo from fostering a generation of youth that is equipped to participate in the global economy. Forty-seven percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work in agriculture which prevents them from getting an education.
  6. A UNICEF study found that the rate of severe malnutrition among children under the age of five exceeds 10 percent and is thus higher than the critical level determined by the World Health Organization. The same study also reported that 108 out of 1,000 children will die before their fifth birthday because of malnourishment. Inability to produce a healthy generation only serves to further answer the question “why is Togo poor?”

Despite the widespread structural poverty that pervades Togo, international organizations and non-governmental organizations have mounted an effort to alleviate poverty.

The World Bank has launched several projects in Togo focused on “macroeconomic recovery and stability, health, agriculture, education and more.”  Notably, the group has built 325 primary school classrooms and provided $26.1 million for infrastructural development in impoverished communities.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Togo a beneficiary of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative which provides debt relief as a poverty reduction strategy. In addition, the World Food Programme has provided assistance to groups affected by natural disasters and high food prices in an effort to reverse the political and economic turmoil that Togo has been confronted with.

As demonstrated by the World Bank, IMF and WFP, meaningful foreign aid and reform must be structural if it is to produce sustainable and long-lasting results.

Hannah Ritner

Photo: Flickr

Help People in Togo

Togo is an African country that values education, even though “more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line.” There is a need to help people in Togo receive proper education to prevent further poverty and to empower its women and youth. The different ways to help people in Togo revolve around these factors.

Accessible Education
Over the last decade, Togo has benefited from free basic education. Previously, a basic education was less accessible to children simply because their families could not afford the yearly fees. The efforts to help people in Togo ensure that families were not keeping their children out of school because of fees have continued to this day.

However, 20 percent of children still do not attend school and 30 percent must work to aid their families. Advocating for primary education to be a requirement for all Togolese children is the next step towards progress. Nonetheless, funding Togo’s schools ensures they will not be forced to charge families once again.

As for the quality of that education, it is crucial to hire adequate teachers who do not utilize child labor for the teacher’s own economic gain. Moreover, for the children’s safety and for a more effective learning environment, most buildings require extensive maintenance and infrastructure improvements. For example, many schools in Togo do not have electricity.

Efforts made by organizations partnered with Togo have seen improvement. Even with a standard class size of 80 children, non-government organizations have provided students with necessary materials and other forms of aid.

Providing adequate education allows Togo’s young adults to trust their own educated minds to help them make a difference in their country. This idea has already started to bear fruit, as a number of Togolese are working to foster innovation and healthful practices among their fellow citizens.

Sename Koffi Abdojinou founded WoeLab, an organization that utilizes renewable resources to create technology to help people in Togo. For example, a member named Afate Gnikou made a 3D printer out of e-waste alone.

Kokou Senaméa youth from Togo, advocates for sexual education. He feels that youth leadership is vital and that youths should be able to educate one another about contraceptives. The voice of a peer is very impactful when it comes to topics with intense stigmas. Sexual education is extremely important in a country with about 120,000 people with HIV. Educating youths to use protection also helps prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Safe Childbirth
UN Women works to protect the life and health of pregnant women. In 2010, there were “287,000 maternal deaths…in Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Togo.” Without proper healthcare and education, pregnancy puts mothers and their children at risk.

To help people in Togo, UN Women is advocating for adequate training for midwives and other health workers, ensuring a safer birthing process.

Empowering women to gain adequate knowledge regarding childbirth and child rearing is the first step towards alleviating poverty. Once Togolese mothers are properly cared for, they can advocate for their own children to value education and provide youths with the confidence to fight for change.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in TogoAlthough it is a small country wedged between Ghana and Benin, the most common diseases in Togo can have a major impact on many.

The World Health Organization reported that in 2014, a little over five percent of the country’s GDP expenses went toward health. The organization also listed a 2015 data finding that males and females between 15 and 60 had slightly different death rates: 309 out of 1,000 people for men versus 266 out of 1,000 people for women.

HealthGrove further put this into perspective, highlighting that out of 100,00 people, 1,266 die yearly in Togo, and listed the country’s life expectancy at 60 years.

Of the common diseases in Togo, those that can be transferred (communicable diseases) are some of the most prevalent.

Diarrhea, lower respiratory and other common infectious diseases
These accounted for a little less than 20 percent of deaths overall and slightly over 30 percent of communicable diseases specifically. Compared to 1990, in 2013 lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and meningitis all posed much lower threats of mortality.

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
These diseases led to between 14 and 15 percent of deaths overall and over 22 percent of communicable disease-related deaths. While tuberculosis’s threat of death has decreased since 1990, HIV/AIDS has increased substantially—by 1,038 percent.

Neglected tropical diseases and malaria
These made up 12 percent of deaths in general and almost 19 percent of deaths from communicable diseases.
Malaria, rabies and schistosomiasis death rates all fell from 1990.

Neonatal disorders
These accounted for 10 to 11 percent of deaths total and over 16 percent of mortality rates due to communicable disease.

Nutritional deficiencies
These led to about four percent of deaths in general and between 6 to 7 percent of deaths for communicable diseases.

In addition, diseases that cannot be transferred—non-communicable diseases—are among some of the common diseases in Togo.

Cardiovascular diseases
As the most common of the non-communicable diseases, these accounted for a little less than 11 percent of deaths overall and over 35 percent of NCD-related deaths. Stroke, ischemic heart disease and other cardiovascular/circulatory disease rates all fell from 1990.

Diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases
In total, these only made up slightly more than five percent of deaths, but in terms of NCDs specifically, these increased to over 17 percent. While hemoglobinopathies and hemolytic anemias, as well as chronic kidney disease, both fell since 1990 (the latter only by one percent), diabetes mellitus actually increased by about 13 percent.

Cancer led to over four percent of deaths in general and over 14 percent of NCD-related deaths. Liver, cervical and stomach cancers all fell by over 30 percent from 1990.

There are still a number of improvements that can be made. For 2015, Togo qualified as a low-income food-deficit country and only slightly less than 12 percent of its citizens used improved sanitation facilities that year.

However, about 63 percent of the population in the same year utilized improved water drinking sources, 85 percent of one-year old children had measles immunizations and the mortality rate of children below five years old fell from about 108 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 78.4 in 2015.

The WHO released a report in February of this year detailing a meningococcal disease outbreak, but listed methods undertaken to address the matter, including requests for vaccinations, support for management and surveillance and the training of health personnel.

Applying these same tactics to the communicable diseases listed may be beneficial. Other methods, like increasing knowledge on how to reduce the spread of disease, as well as improving access to clean water and other nutritional sources could also be key.

Furthermore, for non-communicable diseases—though some may be genetic—tactics like increased exercise and diet changes may yield a reduction in their prevalence.

The nation must still make specific improvements to ensure that its population is healthy. But judging by the fluctuations of common diseases in Togo, there is great hope for a decrease in their pervasiveness.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in TogoTogo is a small country in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea that has struggled with human rights issues for years. In February 2005 their leader of 38 years, Eyadema Gnassingbé, died suddenly and his son, Faure Gnassingbé, was appointed.

His appointment drew widespread criticism, so Gnassingbé left the power and held elections which he won in April of that same year. Gnassingbé’s opponents declared the election fraudulent and hundreds of people were killed during this time of political unrest.

Today, Gnassingbé continues to serve as the president of Togo after being reelected in 2010 and 2015, but the new and fragile democracy still struggles with human rights violations. Below is an examination of five major facets to human rights in Togo, what improvements have been made and what still needs to be done in the future.

1. Legality and acknowledgement of the importance of protecting human rights on a national level has improved.

One crucial step that Togo recently took is its decision to become involved in international human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture. In an of itself, this participation is primarily symbolic; however, it is still a vital step toward a better future for the citizens of Togo.

The Constitution of Togo sets the stage for a country that prioritizes human rights. Articles 15 through 18 state that nobody shall be arbitrarily detained, those who are in prison will be treated humanely and everyone maintains a presumption of innocence before a fair trial.

Article 21 condemns torture, Articles 25 and 26 declare freedom of speech and of the press and Articles 36 and 37 protect working conditions and the fair treatment of children. Reading through The Constitution of Togo, it is clear that at least on paper, human rights in Togo are respected.

2. Criminality is not handled lawfully, those on trial do not maintain a presumption of innocence and some wrongful arrests are made.

Although the constitution states otherwise, arbitrary arrests do happen and there is little to protect a citizen’s presumption of innocence. Despite every defendant’s right to obtain legal advice, most cannot afford it and must represent themselves. The practice of pretrial detention also renders the presumption of innocence futile as these detention periods can be lengthy and harsh.

Amnesty International reported that after the 2015 lawful protest demonstrations in Mango, “Five men remained in detention without trial… There were concerns that they may be held solely because they were the organizers of the protest.”

Detainees awaiting trial account for about 65 percent of the prison population and are not separated from convicted prisoners. Togo does not provide any alternatives to incarceration; therefore, those prosecuted for less serious or nonviolent crimes are detained in the same prisons as violent offenders.

3. Prison conditions are unacceptable.

The dangerous and inhumane prison conditions in Togo are alarming and still require significant reform. In some prisons, prisoners only receive one meal per day and die of hunger. The 2015 report from Amnesty International stated that, “Torture and other ill-treatment were used to extract confessions from detainees, and prisoners were denied timely medical treatment.”

Togo prisons hold more than double their capacity, which leads to increased risk of disease and death.

The 2016 Human Rights Report states that 27 prisoners died that year due to inadequate conditions. The overcrowding crisis in Togo prisons that is responsible for appalling human rights violations, is a direct result of pretrial detention and a broken justice system.

4. Laws against political corruption and penalties against criminal corruption are not properly implemented.

According to Togo’s 2016 Human Rights Report, The National Commission for the Fight against Corruption and Economic Sabotage lacked specific anticorruption legal mandates and was inactive. Other entities like the Government Accounting Office and Finances Inspectorate had limited resources and reported very few results.

Many reforms are still needed into the electoral process, such as instituting a presidential term limit, but the National Assembly rejected the bill that would institute that and other reforms.

5. Child labor and human trafficking have been addressed, but with only moderate improvement.

In November 2015, the National Assembly passed a revised penal code that increased penalties for child labor and human trafficking violations. However, these increases penalties have not been successful in ending child labor, human trafficking or torture.

According to The United States Department Of Labor, Togo “has not devoted sufficient resources to combat child labor, and enforcement of laws related to child labor remains weak. In addition, Togo’s social programs to combat the worst forms of child labor do not match the scope of the problem and rely largely on NGOs and international organizations for implementation.”

Overall, Togo has made positive steps in its acknowledgment of the importance of protecting human rights; however, the country still has a long way to go in implementing protection and improving the lives of its citizens. The justice system and police force currently do not line up with what the Constitution of Togo declares, leading to continuing hardship and violations of human rights.

Since 2005, Togo has come a long way, but there is still a need to raise awareness and advocate for better prison conditions, corruption accountability and increased resources put toward combating child labor and human trafficking.

Katie Hemingway

Photo: Flickr

There are ten facts about Togo refugees that are important to know. It is important to establish a timeline of events so that we can understand the Togo refugee crisis fully.

The first massive group of Togolese citizens to escape to refuge in neighboring countries were in 1993. Togo refugees relocated to Ghana and Benin because of the violent unrest in Togo. The violence that ensued during the fight for the new constitution, and its subsequent abolishment in 1993, led to enormous physical insecurities in Togo.

Here are ten facts about the conditions for Togo refugees since the flight for life in 1993:

  1. The fight between the government and opposition parties led to the displacement of over 15,000 people to neighboring countries in 1993. This number often included families that were separated, and children that were accompanied by strangers because their parents were either killed or lost during the scare to find more secure locations.
  2. The Volta region of Ghana hosts the most refugees from Togo. This region lies west of Togo’s capital Lomé. Citizens of Aflao, a district in the Volta region of Ghana, have welcomed the Togo refugees with an open embrace.
  3. The Volta region has been a major area of dispute between Togo and Ghana since British Togoland became a part of Ghana. It was a part of the split of British and French Togoland, after the defeat of Germany in 1918. After a U.N.-led referendum in 1956, British Togoland joined Ghana.
  4. The citizens of Togo who fled to Eastern Ghana are a part of the Ewe people of West Africa.
  5. Violent and indiscriminate killings after the 1998 elections caused more people to flee from Togo. Families were once again forced to run to safety in neighboring countries because of violent unrests and intimidation from supporters of both the winning and losing parties of the election.
  6. The military handed over power to Gnassingbe Eyadema’s son Faure Gnassingbe after Eyadema dies in 2005.
  7. There have been a series of violent protests and widespread killings, due to opposition to political corruption. This situation has worsened security concerns in Togo, as its citizens live in constant fear.
  8. Victims of the indiscriminate killings resulting from violent unrest are also foreign citizens accused of supporting the opposition or ruling party.
  9. Violent assaults and killings are committed by both supporters of the ruling party in efforts to suppress opposition and supporters of the opposition party in retribution to attacks from the ruling militia.
  10. In Ghana, the government made provisions by 2015 to integrate 2300 Togolese refugees into Ghanaian society. Under the Seeds for Solutions Project, efforts by the Ghanaian governments will be funded by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This provides social and economic aid to refugees for work-training and micro-finance loans to start businesses.

Togo refugees are hopeful that security conditions in Togo will improve so that they can return.

Ebuka Okoye

Photo: Flickr

Togo is a largely underrepresented country when it comes to global poverty awareness. Up until about 500 years ago, nothing about the area was known. Togo is an African country sandwiched between Benin and Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea. It is characterized by palm-lined beaches, hilltop villages and phosphate production. Although Togo is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, an otherwise prosperous resource used in fertilizers, its inhabitants remain poor and almost entirely dependent on humanitarian foreign aid. Thus, the rates of poverty in Togo are very high.

Nearly 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lives under the global poverty line. This makes Togo one of the world’s poorest countries. Child welfare is a huge issue, as 49.5 percent of those impoverished are under 18 years of age. One out of every eight Togolese children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Many face disease, as well as violence and exploitation at the hands of corrupt labor forces and human trafficking. Although the Togolese put a lot of value into education, most children are unable to continue schooling, as their parents cannot afford it.

For years, Togo has been the target of criticism for its human rights policies and poor governance. Developmental aid for Togo was halted in 1992 due to poor governance and human rights issues. In the past, it has gained notoriety as a transit spot for ivory taken from poached elephants and rhinos. For many, this criminal behavior is an act of desperation, as poverty in Togo is so high that many see no other alternative.

However, work is being done. In 2015, Togo began making strides towards eliminating the worst forms of child labor. The Togolese government adopted a new penal code that would implement harsher penalties for human traffickers and other forms of child abuse. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children also endorsed a new Protective Policy Document on Child Domestic Work which would launch movements to help vulnerable children access education.

As Togo relies heavily on NGOs and international organizations, it is also important that foreign governments help these children by supporting laws such as the Education for All Act.  Acts like this one would help to ensure that children similar to those in Togo receive a better education and opportunities.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

free trade productsAlaffia is committed to empowering communities in Togo, West Africa through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company was founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala who grew up in Togo and came to the U.S. after meeting a Peace Corps volunteer.

Alaffia’s Empowerment Projects are funded through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company believes that African products should be available at a fair price and contribute to a sustainable future.

Their Empowerment Projects include “several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM [female genital mutilation] 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.”

Education Projects

Proceeds are dedicated to projects which help get children to school and keep them there. So far, Alaffia has constructed 10 schools, helped 23,700 children get school supplies and built 1,855 benches for children to sit on at school. One of the most important projects the company participates in is supplying children with bicycles to ride to school.

To date, Alaffia has provided 7,100 bikes for children to attend school. According to the company’s website, “95 percent of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.”

Maternal Health and FGM Eradication

Alaffia helps protect mothers and babies by funding prenatal care and clinics. The funds raised from sales of products goes to help fund over 3,500 births to date. Profits are also used to build women’s clinics in Togo, which help to fight against Female Genital Mutilation.

Reforestation and Eyeglass Collection

The company has planted 53,125 trees and invests in alternative fuels. The Alaffia team also collects eyeglasses and has distributed 14,200 pairs to those in need.

Fair Trade

Alaffia defines fair trade as a “movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers.” To that end, the company pays 15-25 percent more than the fair price for the shea nuts that are used to make its products.

In addition, Alaffia employees make four times what most in the area do and get full benefits. Not surprisingly, the company’s production costs and overheads are higher than other shea manufacturers, but Tchala will not compromise.

Alaffia sells fair trade products certified through Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade. The Fair for Life website states that the organization “offers operators of socially responsible projects a solution for brand neutral third party inspection and certification in initial production, manufacturing and trading.

It combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. The system is designed for both food and non-food commodities such as cosmetics, textiles or tourist services.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr