Produce
for
community

It is a Friday morning. On her way to the market, Almaz Zeweli checks if she has everything: scarf, umbrella, tafach. The scarf is a sign of her marital status, the umbrella protects her from the sun and the sweets, or tafach in Amharic, are for her colleagues. “I wanted to learn about complementary food myself in order to use it and advise others,” she says about her first steps with this UNICEF intervention in May 2011. Almaz is now the leader of the women group in Diego, a small town in Tigray region in north Ethiopia. She sets off by foot to the market, like every second morning. The group of ten agreed on a part-time working scheme to make time for their children and the housework.

As she leaves the dirt road behind with its river-like craters and approaches Diego, the voices grow louder and colourful pallets of people come into sight. She crosses the market square skirted by stone houses that blend in with the terracotta colour of the ground. When she arrives at their tiny selling space, her colleagues greet her with smiles and hugs. “We have known each other from before and we work in a friendly manner,” she says. Business is business though and soon the women start with the production planning for next week and prepare the daily financial report. “We received a one-day training on how to calculate the ratios and the district (woreda) administration also trained us in financial management including profit and loss calculations,” she explains.

Access

The business model is simple but effective. The ten women buy the ingredients of broad bean, teff, wheat and sugar from the local market, wash them and with the help of five mixing machines blend and grind them to a flour, which then gets packaged. “In the beginning, we had problems selling our products but with some promotional efforts, we were able to convince mothers,” she says. The group started campaigns at the local health centre demonstrating the benefits of complementary feeding to other mothers. Almaz stresses that during these visits “we don’t try to sell anything. We want to see mothers preparing complementary food at home”.

In the afternoon, she checks on the production behind the shop. A fine layer of white flour dust covers all surfaces in the shed-like room. The machines rumble and regular batches of fine grains like sand trickle through the pipes. Each week, the group produces and sells 50kg. They agreed to save their profits to expand the existing business by “adding more food products to the local community”. The aim is to enable more mothers to feed their children with nutritious and easily accessible food. “We have seen big changes for children in terms of weight recovery, improved health status and good appetite,” she recounts. At 5pm, the women stop the machines, lock the doors and say their goodbyes. Almaz takes her scarf and umbrella and leaves the hustle and bustle of the market behind.