Tanzanian Social entrepreneur Elia Festo (27) fights food waste with his company East Africa Fruits Co., because a lot of food doesn’t even reach the market in Tanzania. East Africa Fruits Co. is one of the 25 nominees of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017.

East Africa Fruits Elia

Three years ago Festo started his company, but he was involved in the food industry for a longer time already: “My mom singlehandedly opened her own restaurant, while raising me by herself. Now, thirty years later, she owns four restaurants and two hotels. My mom wasn’t the only one in the family involved with food. My uncle owned a banana farm. I stopped by his farm everyday on my way to school. Years later, when I was studying Business Accounting and Finance, I noticed that his situation wasn’t improved at all.” 

Enormous waste 
“During my bachelor, I discovered that 4.5 million tons of the Tanzanian food , which is approximately the half of the whole food production, never enters the market. Because of flaws in transport and conservation the food spoils, before it arrives at the stores. This was for me the most important reason to start East Africa Fruits Co. I want to help farmers conserve their food better and in this way increase the shelf life. That’s why we train farmers in efficient conserving methods.” 

“A big problem is that food that spoils quickly, like fruits and vegetables aren’t cooled for a long time after the harvest. Three years ago, I mainly helped farmers in city areas. Meanwhile, I help three hundred farmers among whom many work in remote areas. I try to position my collection centers as close as possible to the local farmers. As we speak we have six collection centers in six different regions, which are all approximately 50 to 70  kilometers removed from the farmers. In this way, we can easily pick up the harvest with cooled trucks. In the future I would love to have more collection centers in other regions of Tanzania, for example in the north.” In these collection centers Festo’s company makes the food clean and ready for sales. 

“Wasted food is one of the main causes of green house emissions. By making sure that less food is wasted we already contribute to a better environment and climate. On top of that, We also learn farmers to dry fruits, like mangos and pineapples by using solar energy. In this way, the shelf life of the food is increased. Our collection centers completely run on solar energy as well. This is why we can process 180.000 tons of food with much less CO2 emission. This is why we are one of the environment- and climate-friendliest companies in Tanzania.” 

Independent and social 
“I think it is important  my company is profitable, but is also honest and social. I want farmers to get an honest price for their harvest.  Because we waste less food, we can also make more money. Besides that I also want to give back to local communities by improving the infrastructure and creating jobs. That’s why we hire a lot of locals.” 

“My uncle was one of the first farmers I helped with my company. While first made 79 dollar of his harvest, he now earns a 1000 dollar. Because of this he was able to swap his mud house for a modern brick house”, tells Festo. 

“The past years the government has focused on infrastructure and Agricultural industry. Because of the lowering of taxes and their fight against corruption the government creates a nice climate for entrepreneurs like me. Sometimes I do encounter corruption. For instance, a while ago we had problems with high transportation costs, because our transporters had to be unnecessary money to use the roads.” 

Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 
Festo has big ambitions for if he wins the Green Challenge: “I would use the money to move my operations to outside Tanzania as well. The company is called East Africa Fruits Co. Of course I would want to work in other East African countries, like Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. A lot of these farmers can’t export their goods. Because of the conserving methods it is often too bad for international export. We could help half a million farmers enter the international market. In these countries I would also get involved with improving infrastructure and job opportunities.” 

On the other hand, Festo would want to invest in the improvement of projects in his own country as well: “It is specifically hard to find good people who can help with organizing and marketing. People are used to work for big corporations. That work forms a contrast with working at  a social enterprise, where you have to have passion to help other people. If you want to work here, you can’t just have passion to earn money.

East Africa Fruits

Source: OneWorld