One Small Question Leads an Entrepreneur to Solve one Big Problem

Most things made sense to Elia; however, this one thing did not.

Growing up in Tanzania, Elia Timotheo remembers his uncle, a banana farmer giving him a banana every day as he passed on his way home from school. Young Elia grew from a child, to a teen, and into a young man. But one thing he could not understand was why his uncle, after years of selling bananas on the side of the road, had not been able to improve his economic status.

Elia wondered, “Why would a hard-working farmer like my uncle still be selling by the side of the road?

This question propelled Elia to find answers: for his beloved uncle and for the countless other smallholder farmers like him in Tanzania. Elia found the answer in EA Fruits, which he founded in 2013.

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.

EA Fruits

Elia loads EA Fruit Farm produce ready for markets. Photo courtesy of SEED

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 bananas, 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 AEA 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 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.