Why Peppers?

Dried red pepper is the most widely consumed spice in the world, eaten daily by one quarter of the world’s population. Worldwide production is estimated at 2.8 billion kg per year. An estimated 400,000 women in Ethiopia process peppers by hand, a laborious procedure that turns fresh peppers into higher-value products: dried flakes, seeds, and powder. The tiring work leaves their hands covered in hot pepper oil and their eyes, noses, and throats burning from pepper dust in the air.

These women are entrepreneurs, looking for ways to help provide income for their families. Working as part of a co-op, a woman may make about 40% of her family’s weekly income, which translates to US$5.19 (70 Ethiopian Birr). If we can help her co-op process peppers more efficiently, with less discomfort and negative health effects, we can help increase how much money she can earn to support her family. And when women earn more income they typically reinvest 90% of it in their families, versus the 30-40% for males. Check out the implications of giving women more opportunities at The Girl Effect.

While visiting local markets throughout southern Ethiopia, our team had the opportunity to meet many women who process peppers for income. Their story has inspired us to develop a tool that aims to improve the lives of women in rural Ethiopia by both increasing their income potential and decreasing the negative health effects of processing peppers.