So­cial Im­pact Ini­tia­tive in Ethiopia

Va­lerie Brown, the au­thor of 'Back­pack­ing Africa for Be­gin­ners', has an in­spir­ing story to tell. And it's not about her book. it's about a snack made from Teff and a busi­ness that she plans to use as a so­cial up­lift­ment ini­tia­tive aimed at cre­at­ing jobs f

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Des Langk­ilde

Be­fore delv­ing into Va­lerie’s story, though, we need clar­ify what teff is. Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, Era­grostis tef is a species of love­g­rass na­tive to Eritrea and Ethiopia. The word “teff” is con­nected by folk et­y­mol­ogy to the Ethio-Semitic root “łff”, which means “lost” (be­cause of the small size of the grain). The US Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil char­ac­terised teff as hav­ing the “po­ten­tial to im­prove nu­tri­tion, boost food se­cu­rity, foster ru­ral devel­op­ment and sup­port sus­tain­able land care.”

In Ethiopia, teff is used to make in­jera whereby the seeds are fer­mented for 3-4 days be­fore it is cooked as pan­cakes or sun­baked to cre­ate dirkosh - a crispy snack with a mildly sour or bit­ter taste.

And this is where Val’s story comes in.

“Al­though I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, In­di­ana I’ve called Ethiopia home for the past two years. Dur­ing my time here, I tran­si­tioned to a plant based, low fat, ve­gan life­style, which has changed my health dra­mat­i­cally. One thing I miss though is [ket­tle fried] chips. I think chips and dip are ev­ery­body’s favourite snack. But for me find­ing a chip that was low fat and didn’t have oil in it was im­pos­si­ble. That’s when I stum­bled upon dirkosh as the per­fect op­tion. It’s so de­li­cious and fill­ing at the same time,” says Val. She dis­cov­ered from an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Wash­ing­ton Post that ‘one serv­ing of teff of­fers 7 grammes of pro­tein, 4 grammes of di­etary fi­bre, 25% of your daily rec­om­mended mag­ne­sium, 20% of your daily iron, and 10% of your cal­cium, vi­ta­min B6, and zinc [re­quire­ments].’

Armed with this knowl­edge Val started to ex­per­i­ment with her own unique recipe that less­ened the time of fer­ment­ing and cre­ated a more suit­able flavour for for­eign taste buds. After a few tweaks, she made it lighter and crispier re­sult­ing in the per­fect snack. So what’s in her recipe? “I use just a few in­gre­di­ents. In fact, maybe it’s bet­ter to be­gin by list­ing what’s not in Dirkosh. It’s oil, preser­va­tive, chem­i­cal, and gluten free. So Dirkosh is all nat­u­ral, low-fat, ve­gan good­ness. Be­sides teff, just a pinch of vol­cano salt is added. Even our flavoured Dirkosh chips only have a few added lo­cal spices. Noth­ing you can’t pro­nounce or find in a typ­i­cal Ethiopian kitchen is in our snack,” says Val.

After meet­ing, fall­ing in love, and mar­ry­ing her then neigh­bour Alula Ki­brom, the cou­ple set about turn­ing their newly cre­ated ‘Dirkosh Crunch’ prod­uct into a busi­ness with ex­port po­ten­tial.

“One of the rea­sons I wanted to take my new pas­sion for plant-based foods into a busi­ness is be­cause of the so­cial im­pact we can have in Ethiopia. I ac­tu­ally have a mas­ter’s de­gree in so­cial work and after liv­ing here I no­ticed that cre­at­ing jobs in a con­scious cap­i­tal­ism kind of way is one of the best ways to make a dif­fer­ence”, says Val.

“Now that I am aware of teff’s ben­e­fits, I think ev­ery­one in the world should have ac­cess to it. They might not like eat­ing it the same way Ethiopi­ans do, but they can en­joy it in dif­fer­ent recipes. For ex­am­ple, a lot of peo­ple in the West like crunchy foods. That’s why we adapted dirkosh to make it into a crispy snack that more peo­ple would want to eat,” adds Alula.

So­cial Im­pact

Em­brac­ing their love for Ethiopia, Val and Alula plan to put a unique fact about Ethiopian cul­ture onto the pack­ag­ing of each new batch of Dirkosh Crunch.

“Why? Be­cause stereo­types mat­ter, and it’s time for this coun­try’s im­age to be up­dated. More than that, though, we want to cre­ate sus­tain­able jobs, which is what African coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ethiopia, need to move out of poverty. Ex­perts be­lieve that Ethiopia has more agri­cul­tural po­ten­tial than most coun­tries in the world, yet they profit lit­tle. Why? Be­cause even if a farmer pro­duces a crop that can be sold to West­ern coun­tries, it is sold in bulk and pro­cessed and pack­aged out­side. This cre­ates lit­tle im­pact on the com­mu­nity.

“Dirkosh is dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the pro­cess­ing and pack­ag­ing, will be made within our com­mu­nity us­ing lo­cal skills. And to be hon­est, there are not a lot of great op­tions for pack­ag­ing cur­rently avail­able within the coun­try. That amount gets even smaller when we fo­cus on mak­ing it green friendly and up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards,” says the en­tre­pre­neur­ial cou­ple.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.