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New York, United StatesJinotega, Nicaragua
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

FairLeaf will produce organic, fairtrade teas made using moringa - a nutrient-rich superfood. Our non-profit arm will promote moringa as a solution to malnutrition and deforestation in Nicaragua.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

An estimated 870 million are undernourished worldwide. 165 million of those are children under 5, including 38% of children in Nicaragua. Extreme poverty is a primary indicator of hunger, and 76% of Nicaraguans live on less than $2 a day. Meanwhile, Nicaragua has lost approximately half of its forest since 1950. Initiatives for income generation, food security, and reforestation can mitigate these issues.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree are astonishingly high in nutrients. Gram for gram, they have 7x more vitamin C than oranges, 4x more vitamin A than carrots, 4x more calcium than milk, 3x more potassium than bananas, and 2x more protein than yogurt. For every product that we sell, we’ll plant five moringa trees (in a community, school, or family garden) and provide technical assistance on how to grow, maintain, and utilize moringa to improve local livelihoods. We'll then train those recipients to incorporate moringa into meals in culturally appropriate ways, thereby ameliorating malnutrition. Our farmers’ communities will be the first communities that we provide trees and technical assistance to. Our model follows an “above and beyond fairtrade” ethos. This means that, rather than simply meeting the minimum requirements to become fairtrade certified, we will offer our farmers prices 15% or greater above fairtrade value. With every sale we'll also plant a tree for reforestation.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We’ll service communities in sweeps (e.g. if a community has 1,000 families, we’ll wait until we’ve sold 5,000 products and then we’ll go into the community and plant five trees per family; we'll provide training such as tree maintenance practices, show how to incorporate moringa into meals, and fatten livestock using moringa). Before going into [entering] a community we’ll rely on our NGO partners to collect baseline indicators of livelihood quality (e.g. weight measurements), and then monitor and evaluate the impact of our program in these communities. If communities haven’t achieved a certain threshold of livelihood improvement, we’ll continue to work with them until it’s clear that they can sustainably reap the benefits without outside assistance.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our goal is to improve the health and livelihoods of Nicaraguan rural communities, smallholder farmers, and employees, and also improve the health of our customers in the US. In our first year we'll begin selling our products in US markets. To do so, we'll need to train and source moringa from 20 smallholder farmers, which we expect will increase their income by 30%. We project that we'll sell approximately 20,000 units of tea to our customers in the US. As a direct result of our sales, we'll be able to improve the nutrition and food security of about 20,000 Nicaraguan families by planting moringa community gardens. Our US customers also benefit, since our beverages are nutritious. Within 5 years we hope to sell 200,000 products to US consumers, source from at least 100 smallholder farmers, and impact 200,000 Nicaraguan families. We also expect to have planted one million trees for reforestation within 5 years. Eventually, we hope to expand our non-profit programming to Haiti and Rwanda.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We plan to begin at local markets and scale-up at a pace that allows us to carefully monitor and evaluate market sustainability. Eventually we aspire to have FairLeaf products available nationwide (via multiple retailers like Wholefoods, Wegman's, and Trader Joe's) and globally. This phase-by-phase approach will allow us to continually gauge market sustainability and ensure that we don't expand beyond our capacity.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Last year, US consumers spent $3 billion on ready-to-drink teas. Some (e.g. Honest Tea, Steaz, Guayaki, and Runa) are fairtrade certified. However, our model is higher impact and our novel ingredient (moringa) is healthier. This gives us a competitive edge. Kuli Kuli and a few other startups also use moringa, but their products are different and their outreach is not as comprehensive. Still, we hope to collaborate with them to build a network for moringa promotion. Two Degrees is a social enterprise that, like us, works to mitigate malnutrition. They donate a meal to a hungry child with every product purchased. Our model is more sustainable. Rather than simply handing out a meal, we provide moringa trees and training so that our beneficiaries can continue to fortify their meals into perpetuity.

Founding Story

Fairleaf was founded by four friends in a rural village in the mountains of Nicaragua. Three of the co-founders were food security volunteers in the Peace Corps while the fourth was completing an MPH internship nearby. We were all promoting moringa as a food security and reforestation tool in our communities. Given moringa’s astonishing nutritional virtues we were amazed that it wasn’t being marketed as a superfood in the US. After completing our service abroad we wanted to introduce moringa to the US, but we wanted to do it in a way that continued the work we were doing to reduce malnutrition and deforestation. We conceived of FairLeaf as a means of linking the US consumer to Nicaraguan rural communities via these extraordinary leaves.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Country

, NY, New York, Tompkins County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, JI, Jinotega

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Fairleaf Foods competed in this year's Echoing Green Fellowship competition, and was selected as a semi-finalist from among nearly 3000 applications. Similarly, we were among 30 finalist companies that competed for in a funding contest sponsored by GOOD Maker and TOMS Shoes (Start Something That Matters Challenge).

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Healthy environments., Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

We feel we are only beginning to touch on all these sectors. Our business model will engage us in all of them, but this added capacity will ensure we can delve deeper into creating a thorough educational model for our farmers, with on-the-ground support staff. Added capacity will also help us ensure we are building our brand quickly to encourage sustainability and efficiency of our manufacturing. We will also have more opportunities for diversifying our impact on the environment and overall human wellness as we engage the local community in reforestation and other educational efforts.