Going organic from Ethiopia to UK

 Mr. Kebede Lakew Ayel accepting an award for his workThis July, the North of England welcomed a very special guest directly from Ethiopia: Mr. Kebede Lakew Ayel.

Well-known for his outstanding job in revitalising the soil in Ethiopia, impoverished by decades of chemical products’ usage, Kebe is behind the creation of Eco Green Organic Liquid Fertiliser. Thanks to this organic fertiliser production company, born officially in 2006 after the dedicated observation of the natural cycle by the very same Kebe, he was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year from the United Nations Development Program/ Ethiopia, among other prizes, for fostering organic farming in the country.

What makes Kebe’s work special is the vision behind it: Organic Liquid Fertiliser can proudly be one of the rare examples of how a commercial company can be successful while respecting the environment, enhancing nature and relying on strict ethical values. Reading Mother Eart on Organic Liquid Fertiliser’s website: ‘Our contribution might be too humble even to reach the local media but it will heal a tiny spot of our ‘mother’s body’ […] hoping that the future generation will recognize the effort we had undertaken to heal the earth and humanity at large’.

In order to observe and better understand the organic food market, Kebe decided to visit the UK, to create an exchange of good practice in order to enhance the organic food market in Ethiopia and perhaps build some fruitful business relationships with British partners. After months of planning, the visit came true: Kebe arrived in London on the 19th of July, and started his adventure.

Based in Burnley, Lancashire, the group visited different aspects and realities of the organic market. At the Red House Farm in Dunham Massey, Kebe had the chance to observe how an organic farm can become an entertainment site for children and not only, with playgrounds , farm shop, café and even a crop-made maze.

After a good night of sleep, it was the turn of Offshoots Permaculture Project. In the grounds of Towneley Hall, Burnley, this outstanding and now famous and successful project has been encouraging people to lead sustainable lifestyles within their communities and homes. During our visit, Phil Dewhurst has explained in details the incredible story of Offshoots and how it developed in an efficient, fascinating and totally sustainable research and production site. Kebe enjoyed the clear explanation and the tour around offshoots, from compost production, to biomass power, the bee farm and the magnificent crops garden.

In the afternoon, the group had the chance to visit another interesting development of organic farming, namely Freshfields, which involves people with different grade of disabilities in organic food and flower growing. Guided around the site by the expert and lovely Gail Harvey-Clapham, Kebe listened not only to the characteristics of organic food production on a small scale, but also received tips on food costumer delivery and other commercial solution for organic growing.

Last but not least, Wednesday morning the group moved to sustainable recycling thanks to Global Renewables. Even though the visiting group was enriched with seven interested German students hosted by Embrace, Sonia Edwards successfully managed to explain the whole cycle of processing the entire household waste of Lancashire. Besides the sorting, separation and treatment of rubbish of all sorts, what Kebe mostly gained from this visit is related to organic compost production on a large scale, along with different interesting tips, such as how to reduce smell in treating waste or biodigesters usage.

It has been short but intense this trip around the beautiful North of England, and hopefully it has not been the last for Kebe. What comes now is an exciting new phase of collaboration. Supported by Embrace, Kebe is now walking on two new paths. On the one side, he craves to improve his own organic fertiliser production, learning from a country where this business is well developed. Attending specialised courses, gaining collaborations, new business partners and knowledge exchange are just few of the options that Mr. Kebe is looking into, in order to boost the organic market in the growing and improving Ethiopia. Yet, cooperation is always mutual. Therefore, on the other side Kebe and Embrace are planning to set up a flow of trainees and young professionals between Europe and Ethiopia for training and working opportunities in the sustainable agriculture sector.

Flavia Cruciani