Transforming the lives of low-income farmers while producing wholesome food
Just about a year ago, a few ex-colleagues from the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and I saw an opportunity to set up a unique farmer support organization that could transform the lives of low-income farmers, while supplying consumers with healthy, wholesome food.
We set up GreenPath – a sustainable agriculture social enterprise that today works with Ethiopian farmers to transform their farms into bio-diverse perennial food production systems, and helps them grow and market high-quality organic food internationally. The innovation we hoped to create and scale was the nucleus farm platform. To address the many challenges farmers face, our goal was to create these platforms in rural communities, equipped with plant nurseries, soil analysis facilities, cold stores, and other support systems—and use them as bases to train farmers in sustainable agriculture.
Pilot project in Ethiopia's Rift Valley
We kicked off a pilot in January 2015 working with farmers in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, and have made tremendous progress over the last few months thanks to the efforts of our 35 partner farms. The farming families that work these lands have been incredibly welcoming to our team, as well as open to the ideas we are introducing, such as growing crops that have beneficial ecological characteristics and market potential even when they had never seen these crops before!
Close-loop nutrient systems for Ethiopian avocado farming
While our farming model involves building closed-loop nutrient ecosystems (the Holy Grail of sustainable farming), we’ve also been developing our market links, focusing on the wonderful Ethiopian avocado as our first crop to market. Over the last few months we began supplying organic, sustainably grown Hass avocados to a local Addis Ababa supermarket called Fresh Corner, and our farmers have been thrilled.
Increasing farmer income and exporting 2.7 tons of avocados
And finally, two weeks ago we hit a major milestone, harvesting 2.7 tons of beautiful organic Hass avocados for a pilot export to Europe. We worked with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and two other partner organizations to harvest, clean, pack, and ship these avocados, successfully conducting the first ever export of avocados grown by Ethiopian smallholder farmers.
These GreenPath partner farmer’s were able to sell their avocados at a price that is 60 percent better than the average local market price. As a result, many farmers are now investing in more avocado trees and are keen to work with us on a number of crops, not just avocados - they are now seeing a valuable market partner for themselves.
Expanding the nucleus farm network
Our team is now focusing on expanding our product offerings to include a variety of nutritious and exotic Ethiopian produce grown by our partner farmers, even as we expand our nucleus farm network and support more farmers to build sustainable, climate-resilient farms that are increasingly self-sufficient and abundant.
Visit Sid's D-Lab Scale-Ups page.
More on the D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship program.