Food Safety in Ethiopia
SafeDish is an Ethiopian company behind an award-winning, innovative product that inventor Helen Weldemichael created. Targeted toward making it easier for a local Ethiopian banana-esque plant to undergo processing for consumption, the product helps improve food safety in Ethiopia as a way of combating food insecurity and malnutrition. While doing so, Weldemichael is also empowering female entrepreneurship in Ethiopia.

Foodborne Illnesses in Ethiopia

Foodborne illnesses are of very big concern in countries like Ethiopia. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia’s citizens are susceptible to foodborne illnesses. With an economy dependent on agriculture, foodborne illnesses are of particular concern in Ethiopia. 

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, foodborne illnesses have a greater impact in lower-income countries like Ethiopia. These types of illnesses in Ethiopia have a strong resistance to antibiotics, making it hard for people to receive treatment for them. This alone makes food safety in Ethiopia a top priority.

Also worsening the problem of food safety in Ethiopia is how food choice for some is dependent on whether or not they perceive their food sources as clean. A study of adolescent food choices in Ethiopia by CGIAR found that unaffordable, unavailable and unsanitary food choices may lead to more children eating packaged food, which is not good for their health.

The Potential of Enset

Enset is one Ethiopian plant that people use in the production of traditional foods. Dubbed the “false banana,” Enset is a solution to food insecurity in Ethiopia and the world. Merely 15 enset plants can feed one person for a year, according to Kew Gardens.

Despite this potential, harvesting enset is particularly challenging, especially in some regions of Ethiopia. USAID reports that women tasked with harvesting the plant often do so with their bare hands and feet, which is a risk factor for foodborne illnesses. Enset must also undergo fermentation to make it edible, a process that usually takes nearly a year.

Weldemichael’s Solution

Weldemichael created an enset fermentation pot and machine via her company SafeDish as a way of making the enset harvesting process easier. The product speeds up the fermentation process to allow the enset to become edible sooner. It also promotes a more hygienic fermentation process since her fermentation method uses peat, as opposed to the ground, where people often leave the enset plant to ferment.

She submitted her invention to USAID’s “Feed the Future EatSafe Innovation Challenge” with the intention of sharing her invention with people beyond her country. Her invention was successful, winning the $10,000 grand prize.

With her prize money, Weldemichael plans on expanding SafeDish and her enset product. USAID says she plans to “scale her business by seeking investors, selling other food products across Africa, and trademarking her innovation in Ethiopia and other African countries.”

Weldemichael also mentioned education as a priority, stating that people can change their communities if they receive an education. As a female inventor herself, Weldemichael emphasizes women’s empowerment in her work. Of the total of four SafeDish employees, two are women. Products like Weldemichael’s invention and companies like SafeDish continue to prove why local businesses can find some solutions to issues relating to poverty.

Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons