In the beginning, there was teff January 23 2014, 0 Comments

When most people think about innovation, their mind goes to Silicon Valley. For me, it's Ethiopia. From my first day on the job at Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency in 2012 I learned about farming innovations that would help farmers double, triple, or even quadruple their harvest.

Throughout my work in Ethiopia's Rift Valley, I saw the potential bounty of a country so often depicted as bleak and hungry by the Western press. I stayed with local families and came to know their values and goals: to educate their children, provide food for their families year round, and cultivate the land from planting to harvest. Seemingly simple goals that resonate with all of us, but too often difficult to achieve. I started thinking about ways to connect these farmers to markets. One year later, Love Grain was born.

Today's excellent Guardian article “Move over quinoa, Ethiopia's teff poised to be next big super grain” by Claire Provost and Elissa Jobson affirms much of what I learned in Ethiopia and why, with two friends from business school, we started Love Grain. Our goal is to bring teff to the United States through a line of delicious, nutritious gluten-free products. We believe our work will have two beneficiaries: first, the teff farmers in Ethiopia with whom we will partner throughout the planting and harvesting process; and second, families in the United States for whom teff is a new, nutrition-packed alternative to gluten-free grains.

Today's Guardian article brings up an important point that merits highlighting: “As western consumers acquire a taste for teff, how to ensure that Ethiopia and its farmers benefit from new global markets is a critical question.” Love Grain is committed to putting farmers first. Once we demonstrate demand for teff in the U.S. market, we plan to purchase teff directly from farmers rather than from traders, which will immediately improve farmer income by 25% according to our research. We also plan to provide our farmers with improved seed and fertilizer on credit, which they often cannot afford which could triple their profits.

Love Grain's first product, Pancake+Waffle Mix, is really our first step in creating a sustainable cycle of farm to family business, with a supply chain that supports all those who touch it. We are grateful for all of our friends who are joining us in this exciting journey. 

Best, 
Aleem

Aleem with a teff planting tool made by a farmer in Waliso, Ethiopia. A simple innovation which could help farmers double their harvest.