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Social entrepreneurship

Companies financing foundation

by Bettina Meier

In brief

The profit from selling fruit juice funds a charitable organisation.

The profit from selling fruit juice funds a charitable organisation.

The foundation STEJ (Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant Jesus) in the West African country of Togo was set up to promote education, culture, sewage treatment and environmental protection. Aimée Abra Tenu, who founded STEJ in 2006, says: “All the trash that is lying around on our streets has always bothered me, and so does the poverty in my neighbourhood.”

As a young girl, she sewed pieces of clothing from scraps of fabric using her mother’s sewing machine. “It struck me it would be possible to create fashion and rainwear from recycled industrial waste and used textiles, and to finance STEJ using the profits.

I founded my company Mi-Woè, which is now supplying goods to European boutiques under the brand name Zam-Ké.”

Later, she set up a fruit-juice production facility. The brand’s name is Vivifruits – “sweet fruit” in the local Mina language. Tenu’s company processes one ton of organic pineapples per week. The fruits are obtained from certified organic co-ops and small farms. “The farmers actually supply the French organic importer pronatura,” explains Abra Tenu. But pronatura only accepts the well-formed fruit, so Vivifruits can buy up the rest. The high-quality fruit juice, which comes straight from the pineapple without pasteurisation and without sugar added, is sold in the best hotels and restaurants of Lomé. The profits serve to fund STEJ, which operates a primary school, a neighbourhood library and a sponsorship programme for socially disadvantaged children.

For Abra Tenu, earning money is not the focus. “I consider my task to drive the sustainable development of my community,” she says. Her companies are currently employing eighty people, and there are fifty more employees and volunteers working for the NGO.

Vivifruits (in French):

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