Frustrated by the lack of interest from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to support my idea of using a value-added market approach to help rural families in Ethiopia, I established the for-profit social enterprise as an international business called ‘Ecological Products of Ethiopia’ in Ethiopia. I am Mitslal Kifleyesus-Matschie (Ph.D from University of Erfurt, Germany), a CEO of Ecological Products of Ethiopia (ECOPIA) that is established in Ethiopia in 2006. ECOPIA Plc. (www.ecopia.de) is a social company whose focus has been developing products and marketing the natural products in Ethiopia and in the region. We started Ecopia Shop in Germany since 2017.
During the past 15 years, I have been developing new products and businesses for food security and income generation. More recently, I have been an adviser to the Ethiopian government on herbal medicinal plants regulations and designed the Ethiopian herbal medicinal plant draft regulation.
I am working with 6 ministries on community involvement in natural products for medicinal plants, health, food security and its implication to peace and security (the implementation of Biosphere reservoir, implementation of international treaties on environment aspects, social companies’ development as conflict prevention, peace building and disarmament polices) in Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Ecopia is a company working with 11,000 Ethiopian farmers on production of processed food, herbal supplements and cosmetics. Ecopia is organized in a unique manner that is designed to address capacity building, learning and empowering these farmers in the skill and knowledge of value adding to the produce they harvest/collect from the farms and the wild. This helps farmers to produce and sell processed products from their harvest that have much better prices than selling it as a raw material. The products are developed by the company’s research and development department based on studies about availability of natural resources the farmers have access to and the traditional usage history of these resources within the native community.
ECOPIA has over the past years successfully introduced and marketed a considerable Carbon foot print zero and human qulity 100% product line from Ethiopian biosphere reserves and ethiopian organic farmers for ethiopian market. Todays Ethiopian forests and world wide biosphere reserves are threatened by climate change, access to resources and eqitable income generations. Ecopia establish a company with the youth in the communities for sustainable management of the three pillars of the biosphere reserve (conservation, education and income generation) as soultion and contribution to the world enviormental and human challenges.
ECOPIA achieved this by consequently organizing the production process based on the needs and opportunities of the farmers and the community level. Ecopia concept of sustainability is within all the value chain of food and the biomass product of food (cosmetic products). Run as a social enterprise ECOPIA has used financial and knowledge resources to provide the associated farmers with the production and processing technologies, the marketing know-how and facilities and the necessary training for the implementation and development of technologies and organizational processes. All the production and processing facilities were from the very beginning designed according to green economy standards. Along with the development of the product-line and the production process for natural food products ECOPIA has shared her experiences and knowledge to set up institutional means of defining and securing the market of Natural Food products initiated.
Ecopia aims to make each of its processing plants a showcase for alternative energy. In addition, Ecopia processing plants are often situated in areas that are not connected to the national electrical grid. Ecopia partner, the free school of Waldorfschool in Wendelstein
www.aethiopien-solarprojekt.de/ is working on a project to design, install and maintain a solar energy system to provide electricity for lighting and other processing equipment. The Coffee Shop at each processing plant will demonstrate fuel-efficient cooking stoves that are designed to use over 60% less fuel wood thereby protecting forests while producing less harmful smoke.
Over the last six years Ecopia has trialled different methodologies and tackled numerous challenges posed by cultural and traditional practices and perspectives, legislation, climate and economics in Ethiopia and also having access to the european market. The connection directly to eurpean market is key to our activities, first we consider that our interdepanance should be supported with good qulaity products from us directly to consumers and secondly we want to creat new dialoge on our interdpendance.
Ecopia has develop two additional product lines; a Skin and Hair Care and Natural Pharmacy product range from the biomass of the ecopia food processing facilities: all our cosmetic products are eatable cosmetics that are the seeds of mango, avocado etc. Which are important for european consumers. In order to support our connectivity, Ecopia has developed online shop for selling its products in Europe (as this has a great positive impact in Ethiopian market due to the quality control) as well as to be a directly in contact to consumers.
Ecopia is confronted today with three challenges:
1. first how to make our online shop visible;
2. How to optimise our products to keep our competitiveness.
3. How to empower our communities (specially the youth) to be linked directly to the consumers.
In this regard, we consider we need to make one more step that is to invest to a web designer linked to application software of management.