In 2015, EA Fruits was a winner in the African Entrepreneurship Award’s Environment category. With this $150,000 of seed funding, and with mentoring along the journey, Elia is now helping farmers, like his uncle, improve their lives by improving their bottom line.
Impacting Farmers, One Banana at a Time
In Tanzania alone, 4.6 million tons of produce is lost annually, due to poor transportation and storage. When a farmer harvests banana, or any other crop, as much as 40% of these bananas will be lost, post-harvest. This loss has ripple down effects on farmers and consumers. EA Fruits is beginning to put a dent, not in the fruit, but in the problem.
From 1,200 tons to 180,000 tons
Winning the African Entrepreneurship Award accelerated the impact of EA Fruits and provided the funding for Elia to quickly scale. Elia says, “We were very focused when we started the journey with AEA;” however, he admits that without seed funding the growth they are experiencing now “probably would have taken 15 years.” Funding from AEA helped Elia immediately build one of the largest cold storage facilities in Tanzania.
Elia says their capacity was at about 1,200 tons of produce, annually, before the Award. The new cold storage facility can now handle a whopping 180,000 tons, annually. To fill the warehouse with produce, EA Fruits now owns a fleet of trucks that travel to farms, and properly package and deliver the produce to the warehouse. The complete process decreases food loss.
“That has lived with me until now, whenever I pitch…”
During the Award’s free, online round mentoring, one mentor advised Elia to “plan to communicate results to key influencers/stakeholders who can help propel your idea.” Communicating the potential impact of EA Fruits is precisely where Elia still needed to improve. The soft-spoken, humble Tanzanian did not lack passion or vision, but packaging.
The Sweetest Fruit…Working Capital
Some of the sweetest lessons of all, for Elia, have come since winning the Award in October of 2015. Elia says that an Award mentor told him that, “if we could invest in working capital, our business could grow very quickly.” After three years of positive growth, this investment in working capital helped EA Fruits increase their growth even further, and ensures they stay out of the red, and into the fresh.
Measuring Growth, Increasing Impact
For EA Fruits, growth is measured not only by revenue, but in impact. EA Fruits has grown from 150 to 368 farmers. By the end of the year, Elia projects this number will grow to 500 farmers as the full 180,000 ton facility reaches its peak capacity. This is the first level of impact.
EA Fruits have dramatically increased hiring. Since winning the Award the company has grown to 18 full time, permanent staff, and another 45 temporary laborers contracted to load and off-load trucks.
“Just the beginning of our journey”
As a grown man with a growing business, Elia now knows the answer for his uncle, and other smallholder farmers like him. Reduce waste and increase profit. The ripple effect for a farmer is great. Farmers scale their farms and scale their buying power and increase their livelihood.
Now when Elia returns to his uncle’s banana farm for his customary snack, he sees a provider who has built a brick and mortar home. He sees a father who is able to provide more for his children. And, he sees a farmer who has multiplied his production to over 30 tons a month. Elia proudly states, “When I see him, I feel very proud and honored to help him understand the potential he had and how he has been able to improve his life.”