Eritrean and Gorta-Self Help Africa visitors at the Eight Degrees Brewing facility are, l-r: Padraig McCarthy (Ballyhoura Development), David Lee (Lee's Honey, Kildorrery), Billy O'Donovan (Mitchelstown Partners in Learning), Hakisiir (chairperson of the Eritrean Women in Agri-Business Association), Cam Wallace (Eight Degrees Brewing), Frehiwet (secretary of the Eritrean Women in Agri-Business Association), Carmel Fox (director at Gorta-Self Help Africa), Ciara Tallon (community/campaigns manager Gorta-Self Help Africa) and Nora McGillicuddy (Ballyhoura Development).

The chairperson (Hakisiir) and secretary (Frehiwet) of the Eritrean Women in Agri-Business Association visited Mitchelstown last week along with staff of Gorta – Self Help Africa, Alice Guinan and Ciara Tallon, during their study trip to Ireland.

The visit was organised by Padraig McCarthy, Food Enterprise Development Officer with Ballyhoura Development, who presented an overview of their supports to small businesses with a focus on adding value to farm produce.

Cam Wallace of Eight Degrees Brewing gave a presentation on the growth, branding and marketing of their 8° beers and gave the visitors a tour of their processing facilities in the food units at Coolnanave Industrial Park, Mitchelstown.

David Lee and Nora McGillicuddy spoke to the visitors about their honey and bakery businesses respectively with a particular focus on packaging, branding and quality control.

Billy O’Donovan, Chairperson of Mitchelstown Partners in Learning, shared the experience of PiL in their work with the community of Mbula in Uganda, especially in supporting small enterprise development and the development of a seed co-op.

Tom Whelton, Chairperson of Mitchelstown Enterprise Centre, spoke to the visitors on the development and value of the food units and enterprise centre to the start up and early growth of businesses and, in turn, to the economy of the town.

A range of local produce, including Chamberlain’s Bread, May Sheehy’s Jam, Hodgin’s Sausages, Hanley’s Black Pudding, Ellen’s Apple Tart, Clothild’s Compote, Ballyhoura Apple Juice were enjoyed by the visitors, which ‘helped to demonstrate opportunities for value addition and marketing of food products’ as articulated by Alice.

“What you have done to support enterprise development in the area is remarkable and it was a real pleasure to witness first-hand how you empower all around you. Each individual success story is testament to that empowerment.”

Hakisiir and Frehiwet found that there were many learnings for them to take back to the Eritrean Women in Agri-Business Association and from the perspective of Gorta-Self Help Africa and their work with community enterprise development across Africa.

Sincere thanks were extended to all who gave of their time and insights.