Why Yaji & Ripples in Africa partnered to create sustainable supply chains for West African Spices
Ripples in Africa is a nonprofit initiative that invests in women-run farms in west africa. Yaji is a B corp designed to source and sell the spices they grow to the African diaspora around the globe. Anne Toba is the CEO and founder of both. Here is how it all started…
In 2005 Anne formed Ripples to help BME (Black, minority ethnic) women in the UK escape domestic violence. In 2011 she returned to her Nigerian home country and asked the women there how she could help them. “And in all the interviews” she said ” I got the same answer: [They] would want to be able to feed their children, send their kids to school and save [money] so that when their kids are sick, they’re able to afford medical services.”
The Ripples farm model was then born, placing women in groups of 10, allowing them to support each other in business, farming and childcare. “They serve as a support network for each other, and they feel they build very, very strong bonds,” Toba explained.
The crops grown by the women include vegetables, grains and tubers to help supply food for their families and communities. “But then … we also pay a lot of attention to their ability to also sell their products, so they grow both food crops and cash crops,” she said. Some of the cash crops grown by the women include moringa, baobab, scotch bonnet, and spices like hibiscus and grains of paradise.
As trends for West African flavors started to emerge in the United States, Anne saw the potential to create the first ever direct from farm supply chain from Nigeria to the US. And thus Yaji spice was born.
“It’s not just about buying the spices,” Toba said, “but being interested in the women that we’re helping and telling stories about west african culture through food and community.”