A story from Ethiopia: From Motherhood To Self-made Nutrition Expert And Change Leader
Melat Yosef Dejene is a mother of two and the founder of VitaBite Nutrition. In 2011, when she had her first daughter, everything was new. One of her biggest challenges was the moment when her daughter was supposed to start eating solid food.
„I was shocked. I didn’t know what to give her. I went to the supermarket and bought packaged child food which I gave to her every day.“
Even though Melat realized the lack of diversity in her daughter’s diet, she had no idea how to feed her differently. Besides receiving advice from a friend, Melat started to educate herself: on children’s nutrition, on causes of undernutrition and on treatment possibilities. Stunned by her findings, Melat decided to do something about it.
Melat started writing down recipes for her children’s nanny to prepare for them when she was at work. The recipes turned into a draft book that she shared with friends and family. Wanting to make this knowledge available to more caregivers, Melat published her first recipe book “1000 days”. VitaBite Nutrition was created.
Undernutrition is highly related to poverty. Especially low-income families often lack access to resources and knowledge.
Based on humanity-centered research, VitaBite started an sms-based recipe service for those families to gain access to knowledge they would otherwise not have received.
Founding a business in Ethiopia is not easy. The country lacks networks, funding opportunities, knowledge and infrastructure. Existing policies can be challenging.
But Melat resisted.
„What made us continue throughout the years was the feedback we got from our customers and how our products and services were helping them“, she says.
Melat is one of the courageous leaders in the food system, transforming it step by step. She also co-created “Social Enterprise Ethiopia”, a network for social businesses aiming to build a more conducive ecosystem for social enterprises in Ethiopia. Currently, they are developing policy reform, capacity building initiatives and a broader networking ecosystem.