Addis Ababa, 16 February 2023 (TDI): Helen Weldmichael, an Ethiopian women inventor promotes safe and nutritious by designing a product that improves food safety — and empowers women in her country.
She was born in northern Ethiopia and grew up eating hot enset bread baked by her mother. She only knew of Ethiopian food similar to a banana, called an enset.
Helen joined Wolkite University in the southern part of the country as a lecturer and learned about the flowering plant that is a staple food for about 20 million Ethiopians. She now works as an Associate Professor.
The people of Ethiopia in this region use the entire enset plant for food, women who process the plant often use their bare feet and hands to cultivate the plant, which can contribute to foodborne disease.
To save women from this difficult process, Helen created an enset processing machine and fermentation pot. That includes a starter culture that speeds up the fermentation process, which takes almost a year to ferment into edible enset.
The process she invented uses peat that is more hygienic and reduced the potential contamination by organisms that are found in the ground where enset is typically fermented.
Helen, when learned about the USAID-funded Feed the Future EatSafe Innovation Challenge, she submitted an imitation to promote food safety, and share her invention beyond Ethiopia, online.
The enset machine and fermentation pot she innovated were created by her company SafeDish, named the winner of the 2022 challenge.
She planned to use her winnings to increase the scale of her business by seeking investors, selling other food products across Africa, and trademarking her innovation in Ethiopia and other African countries.
Helen is an example of a successful woman that is working in STEM to increase the safety of local food and also reduce the time women spend making food for their families and their livelihoods.
World Health Organization (WHO)
According to WHO, unsafe food is responsible for one in 10 people falling ill, and the deaths of at least 125,000 children globally every year.
In this wake, low- to middle-income countries face the largest burden of foodborne disease an estimated $95 million per year in lost productivity.