Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
We operate across the African continent in 15 countries through “word of mouth” marketing. Projects where e’Pap is used go across a spectrum from highly malnourished or sick communities with little access to resources to general feeding to maintain well being.
We manufacture in a highly regulated environment that is inflexible to new ideas. Regulator controls and specifications are not designed to support innovation and new technologies. The silo paradigms that refuse new understandings are built to protect vested interests or levels of ignorance that hire support from “trusted advisors”.
This difficult environment is compounded by dysfunctional and ineffective government structures and procedures where corruption, ignorance and misinformation are exploited.
Populations have moved from rural farming areas to urban slums where the food source is largely processed foods. Nutritional deficiencies (hidden hunger) have resulted in enormous health challenges for which current, traditional approaches to health care are not equipped. Both the medical and nutritional professions have “lost the plot”. Well-resourced vested lobbies or levels of ignorance on the latest scientific understanding on nutritional science result in confusion and misinformation.
Our experiences with regulatory structures and international decision makers in large donor organisations that are mainly controlled by medical mindsets have been “difficult”. One day they will become the subject of a book and movie that we are sure will become an International Best Seller.
e’Pap has set the stage for a new approach to nutritional interventions. Many ineffective “copy cat” approaches that use ineffective mainstream approaches to fortification become part of the problem. They “muddy the waters” and bring into disrepute the nutritional advances that we need to make.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
A lifelong focus has been to repair the dysfunction in our world. e’Pap Technologies resulted from a volunteer project in which my wife Rose was involved. Jenny Marcus started a project called CARE (Community Aids Response) to support people with HIV at Johannesburg Hospital. The HIV pandemic was just hitting South Africa in 1999. ARV Drugs were not freely available. The only advice for patients was to “go home and eat a healthy well balanced diet”. It was advice that no poor South African could afford. CARE received a donation from the Elton John Foundation to offer counseling, training and food parcels. My involvement was to bring some science to the food parcel.
Our formulation approach was to create an affordable single food portion that would deliver many of the important nutrients contained in “a healthy well balanced diet”. As a social responsibility project we had access to the leading brains internationally in food fortification. As a result, we were up to speed overnight in areas of nutrient interactions and bio-availability.
The “miracle stories” that resulted from the unmarked, pre-cooked fortified food that we distributed in the food parcels and the request from patients to purchase it, resulted in us setting up Econocom Foods. As social entrepreneurs, we decided to distribute the product via a “job creation” and community distribution network as a way to empower those living with HIV. The business model we created allowed us to make cash and product donations to those at the forefront of fighting the pandemic.