East Africa Fruit Farm and Company: an outstanding enterprise, not just according to President Obama
[Entrepreneurship] puts rising economies on the path to prosperity and empowers people to come together and tackle our most pressing global problems, from climate change to poverty. When people can start their own businesses, it helps individuals and families succeed. It can make whole communities more prosperous and more secure.
... As I travel around the world, one of the extraordinary things that I had the opportunity to do is to meet young people in every region, and to see the problem solving and the energy and optimism that they’re bringing to everything... I think of the Tanzanian startup that helps farmers reduce their harvest losses…
– US President Barack Obama at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 on 24 June 2016
That Tanzanian startup is 2015 SEED Africa Award Winner East Africa Fruit Farm and Company (EAFFC). The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is held annually to foster and advance inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide, held this year in Silicon Valley and hosted by US President Barack Obama. EAFFC’s Director Elia Timotheo spoke with the White House Director for Global Engagement two days prior to the GES. The enterprise was founded in 2011 and mitigates post-harvest issues sub-Saharan African countries face.
See Timotheo featured in Fast Company as a “rock-star entrepreneur”.
Catalysing food security in Tanzania with fair and modern farming
According to Timotheo, fruit and vegetable waste costs Tanzania approximately USD $3 billion per year. Connecting the distressing rate of malnutrition with the high post-harvest losses in peak season and the unreliable distribution of fruit and vegetables in low season, Timotheo established EAFFC.
The enterprise purchases fresh produce from smallholder farmers at fair prices, circumventing traders who pressure farmers into low prices. The flexible business model can be tailored to fit the needs of individual farmers who either work on their own land or participate in a small-scale franchise model and cultivate EAFFC’s 170-acre farm. The use of modern technologies and greenhouses improves crop output, eliminates small farm holders’ overdependence on weather, ensures supply of produce throughout the year and increases farmers’ incomes.
The enterprise processes the produce by cleaning, sorting, packing and marketing it to make it ready for resale. Cold storage facilities and professional handling prevent farmer-to-fridge spoilage and has resulted in a 10% drop in post-harvest losses. Furthermore, the use of SMS technologies links farmers and buyers, improving transparency and providing up-to-date information and communication.
SEED support came at a crucial moment for EAFFC
In 2015, EAFFC won the SEED Africa Award for eco-entrepreneurship. Since then, they have set up two greenhouses (one of which was financed with SEED funding), a farmhouse and a borehole on the farm and have begun construction of a cold storage facility. Producing in-house instead of purchasing produce from other farmers has increased both yield and margin and reduced costs by 3%. In addition, product quality and quantity have increased in comparison with open field production.
Mr Timotheo said that the SEED support came at a crucial point for his company, and opened the doors for him in terms of management structure, increasing productivity and quality of produce to distribute to the local market. During the training, he was able to understand the management cycle, how to run a company successfully with the right team and build and communicate a business model for EAFFC that he still uses today. “Before that, we never had a strong business plan,” he said. EAFFC has been able to share this business plan with investors and achieved higher profiling due to the SEED experience.