GreenPath Food

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GreenPath Food: Green Marketplaces and Permanent-Agriculture Systems for Smallholder Farmers

Addis Ababa, EthiopiaButajira, Ethiopia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GreenPath envisages a world in which smallholder farmers feed our planet profitably and environmentally sustainably. The GreenPath Way is a highly scalable, systems-approach that utilises low-cost farming and supply chain technologies to produce nutritious organic food with zero environmental impact

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the world's 500 million smallholder farms could be transitioned to permaculture systems, feeding the world while reducing GHGs and improving livelihoods of the world's poorest populations all at the same time?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

GreenPath aims to address six specific problems faced by indigenous Ethiopian smallholder farmers. 1. Low yields - Yields suffer from soil malnutrition 2. Poor harvest quality - Techniques to harvest for markets are poor 3. Increasing costs - Agri-chemicals are expensive 4. Degrading soil and land - Land is over-tilled, and chemical poisoned 5. No cold storage - High perishability 6. Lack of market access - Inability to improve incomes

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

GreenPath is an organic foods enterprise that works with Ethiopian smallholder farmers. Our proposed solution is a farming system (Permaculture), a delivery mechanism (our Farmer Service Centres) and an incentive system (Green Marketplaces) that provide knowledge, support and economic incentives to transform smallholder farms. Permaculture is a system of organic agriculture that mimics patterns in nature to create self-regulating closed-loop agricultural ecosystems by intelligently connecting locally available resources. Our Farmer Service Centres include low-cost cold stores, nurseries, soil test equipment and other support. Green Marketplaces involves creating links to retailers desiring organic, sustainably grown produce.


MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups; MIT IDEAS Global Challenge; Food Security and Rural Entrepreneurship (FSRE) Award; LUSH Sustainable Award; Legatum Fellowship; MIT Public Service Center Fellowship; Legatum Seed Grant; Agriculture Innovation Prize Finalist
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

First, GreenPath builds Farmer Service Centers (FSCs) in rural farming communities, creating an effective support system for local farmers. Our trainers then work with local leaders and officials to identify farmers who will be Model Farmers for the community, helping farmers transition to green, high-yield, sustainable organic farming. Trainers teach permaculture curriculums to farmers in an apprenticeship-style model, 'showing' rather than 'telling', and provide growing and harvest support. FSCs provide organic inputs, soil analysis, cold storage, and finally pay farmers organic premiums for their crops. GreenPath supplies this farmer-branded food to marketplaces that want to create social impact by buying sustainable organic produce.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Thus far GreenPath has impacted 35 families (about 175 individuals) in the Butajira area, during our pilot year. Farmers have seen an increase in prices (20-60% by product), growth in yields (5-15%) and increase in climate-resilience due to crop diversification (by at least 3 additional ecologically beneficial intercrops). Going forward, we expect our model to provide: - 25%-150% increase output per sq ft of fruit/veg, targeting malnutrition amongst farmers - At least 30% increase in prices, improving and stabilising farmer incomes - Increased food security and climate resilience, and reduced risk, through larger harvests and diversified crops - At least 5% Total Organic Carbon increase, leading to soil carbon sequestration by planting perennials - Increased biodiversity, restoring soil health by at least 20% - Reduction in pesticides, non-renewable resources and costs

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

By creating East Africa’s largest sustainable farming network, we humbly hope to inspire others across the world, accelerating the shift away from industrial agriculture that hurts our planet, to sustainable agriculture that benefits farmers, develops rural economies and feeds our growing global population. We see our model scaling throughout Sub-Saharan Africa through our own growth, a franchise model (which we will pilot in 2016) and through other organisations that we collaborate with. Finally, we hope to provide evidence to influence policy of governments and large donors.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

GreenPath is a for-profit social enterprise. Our financial sustainability will be ensured through revenues from the retailer relationships that we develop for our organic products. Our low-cost, capex light model means that we are on course to reach payback at our current site in less than 18 months. External grant and debt funding will only be sought to scale operations and help us reach more farmers quicker than we would otherwise.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many organisations work in agricultural development including NGOs such as One Acre Fund and businesses such as Fairtrasa. We are also aware of permaculture institutes in Africa. However, to our knowledge, no other organisation has successfully commercialised permaculture through a smallholder farmer-focused model in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, we believe our provision of low-cost support facilities to farmers through Farmer Service Centers, our creation of Green Marketplaces, and our focus on zero-impact agriculture, eliminating chemicals and unsustainable resources is unique.

Founding Story

In 2011, our founding team came together at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and saw first-hand the challenges that existed in the “business as usual” approach to agricultural development, for farmers, consumers and the planet alike. Searching for better answers, we coincidentally visited the farm of Eliot Coleman, our "aha" moment. Eliot is a leading small-scale sustainable farmer and runs a farm that is immensely productive, is naturally organic, and uses almost no external resources. We finally found that a genuinely sustainable, high-yield agriculture model can be feasible and profitable, but only on small farms due to the reliance on hand-based techniques.


Our core team consists of the following individuals: 1. Eric Couper, Co-Founder & Director of Operations, former Technology Advisor at Abt Associates, Senior Program Associate at Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, and ICT Coordinator at Africa Soil Information Service; BA at Tulane University, MPA at Columbia' School of International Public Affairs (SIPA) 2. Sid Kamath, Co-Founder & Director of Business Strategy - former Manager at Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency focused on advising the CEO on organisational development, former McKinsey & Co consultant and McKinsey Global Institute Fellow; BSc Economics London School of Economics, MBA at MIT 3. Christina Zawerucha - Director of Permaculture, former Managing Director of Permaculture for Peace, former Director of Gypsy Wagon Farm; BA at Binghampton Univ, MSc Education at City University New York 4. Kristen Dormanen - Director of Product & Sales, former Bain & Co Senior Consultant specialising in sustainability, retail and private equity, BA Economics UCLA, MBA at MIT This core team brings strong expertise in agricultural development, farming, start-ups, management consulting, economics, international development, resource sustainability and marketplace development, with a combined 10 years of experience in East Africa. In addition, our broader team consists of a fantastic set of Ethiopian professionals, with a current total team size of 9. We see this team size growing to about 25 individuals in 2016, our first year of operation following our 2015 pilot year. Our objective is to build a strong Ethiopian management team within the organisation, and we will hire no more full-time expatriate staff. As the organisation grows, our current core team will focus on developing new operations across East Africa. Our formal advisory board consist of Mirafe Marcos (Deputy CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency), Joseph Shields (CEO of EthioChicken and Partner at Flow Equity), Eliot Coleman (Leading sustainable farmer and author), Avihai Ilan (Leading fruit tree agronomist) and Eden Getachew (Governance Advisor, Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative) We also have an extensive network of pro-bono legal and strategic advisors from MIT, Harvard and the University of Michigan.