Growing a business, like growing a healthy crop, takes time, patience, hard work and skills. Lucky then, that the founder of Flahti Bla Dwa, Hasna Lahrizi, has these qualities in spades. Hasna is no stranger to the field either, having spent most of her career managing logistics and purchases for large retail stores such as Carrefour Egypt.
Back to Morocco, There, she realized that smallholder farmers were locked out of the urban retail value chain, and are at the mercy of multi-layered system of middleman which drive prices down for farmers and up for consumers. Furthermore, because ‘from market to table’ concepts were gaining momentum in the region and abroad, ‘organic’ labels became increasingly associated with luxury and premium prices.
Flahti bla dwa, which literally means ‘free from chemicals’ in the local Moroccan dialect, aims to address these two issues by partnering with smallholder farmers and creating direct distribution channels to households in urban areas, helping to provide local, fresh, Fair priced, and tasty products.
Passion for fresh, good food
Hasna’s passion underpins this work. “Morocco is a foodies’ paradise,” she says. “Our rich and diverse culinary tradition is rooted in the diverse crops and soils that define regional specialities and in the people who cultivate them”. In a country where the economy remains predominantly driven by agriculture (40% of the population lived in rural areas and agriculture accounted for 19% of GDP in 2015), support for smallholder farmers is critical to help them face climate change, soil erosion and infertility and protect biodiversity. Flahti Bla Dwa is built on a partnership with the farmers where access to new distribution channels requires significant efforts to ensure quality and consistency of products across the farmers’ network. There is then a dual awareness effort: to both the farmers’ network and to the community and client base. The latter is focused on breaking the perception that healthy, sustainable organic produce is not just a luxury product.
To farmers it is about spreading sustainable farming techniques to ensure food sovereignty and economic prosperity. “Recently,” says Hasna, “a heat wave in Morocco severely affected production and led to a halt in our supply chain”. She recalls how panicked she was at the time – especially for a nascent business. Eventually, she saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the economic and social costs of climate change for customers and farmers alike.
Change is good
When asked how she made the decision to switch from a large corporate business to an entrepreneurial venture, Hasna mentioned how difficult it was at the beginning to garner enough confidence to start. Then she applied for a Program of Incubation of Social Startup. (Moroccan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Dareinc program) “However,” she says, “once I started, I just kept going. In many ways I was energized every day by the impact I could have reigniting the link between producers and consumers, rural and urban communities and therefore adding a social value to the product.
It was interesting as well to see how she navigated across two worlds and two ways of doing business. “With my project, that is all about from Farm to Table, social media is the best tool out there to reach directly the consumers”
It took me some time to start a page on Facebook and to be comfortable with social media, but it’s a blessing for an entrepreneur like me, since it helps avoids some of the costs of traditional marketing.”
The future is green
Hasna is looking forward to growing Flahti Bla Dwa as an organization and spreading the message of fair prices for both customers and producers. “As a person,” she says, “my social goal is to build an inclusive community that deepens relationships between rural and urban areas. And as a business-woman my goal is to build a model that is economically, socially and ecologically sustainable and replicable.”
Learn more about Hasna Iahrizi and Flahti Bla Dwa