Partner: Dama Enterprises
Injera, a large pancake-like bread, is the staple food of Ethiopia. Since it is eaten with nearly every meal, the women of Ethiopia must prepare dozens of injera every other day. Injera is cooked on large clay discs called mitads which are traditionally left on 3 stones to allow an open fire to be lit in the space underneath.
Approximately 83% of Ethiopians are farmers, most living in traditional huts with large families and livestock such as goats, chickens, and calves. These huts are dangerous places for mitads. They are stepped on by animals, knocked over by children – or they simply succumb to the rigors of frequent use. Jawar, an Oromiyan, told us “…you don’t understand. Mitads: this is delicate stuff.”
Most mitads won’t last longer than 3 months, some break after a week.
Replacing a mitad costs about 40 Ethiopian birr, or 4 USD, which is a significant cost to the average Ethiopian family. Over the course of a year, replacing these large, fragile discs costs more than the school fees and related expenses an Ethiopian family would need to give their child an education.
Create a product that radically increases the durability of the clays cooking surfaces, resulting in significant savings for Ethiopians who live on a dollar a day.
The design team discovered that compressing the clay by tightening a metal band around its circumference drastically improves its durability. Initial tests showed that most clay discs would shatter when dropped even a few inches onto concrete. Once a metal band was installed, however, the same discs could be dropped over 10 feet and would bounce off the ground with only a few minor cracks in the surface! Even when the clay completely shattered, the metal band held the pieces together, allowing the mitad to be repaired for further use.
With the compressive band concept in place, the team set about reducing the cost and complexity of the device. The focus was on creating a product that could be manufactured locally with readily available materials. The final design settled on a pair of semicircular bands, each with small tabs at the end that allow the band to be tightened down with a pair of bolts. The Mighty Mitad can be made for about a dollar and delivers remarkable results.
Rolling out an inexpensive product that solves a problem shared by everyone in an entire country requires considerable distribution capabilities. The design team has partnered with a for-profit partner in Awassa, Ethiopia to produce and distribute the “Mighty Mitad.” Dama Enterprises will field test the product, manufacture it locally, and develop a network of distributors. Dama will pilot distribution and learn about their customers in this test market before expanding throughout major cities and rural areas in Ethiopia.
If the entire country of Ethiopia were to use the Mighty Mitad the impact would be enormous. Every year the Mighty Mitad could save consumers over 2 billion Ethiopian birr and over 3 thousand lifetimes of working hours. Furthermore it could reduce the consumption of mitad production resources by 800%, annually saving 1 billion pounds of clay and countless numbers of the endangered trees that are cut down to fire the mitads. It’s a savings that could send 13 million children to school, revitalize the landscape, and stimulate a nation’s economy. For a simple, inexpensive band of steel, the Mighty Mitad has astounding potential.