Student Continues Sustainable Farming Work in Africa

March 19, 2020

group of children and one man holding a soccer ball

Maarouf Barry (center holding ball) with a youth soccer group he helps support in West Africa.

Maarouf Barry is a student living anything but the typical college lifestyle. Not only is he active at Wentworth, he also runs his own start-up in his home country in Guinea that focuses on an industry integral to African cuisine: palm oil.

“Palm oil is the main crop that we grow, and palm oil in Africa is like olive oil in Italy. It’s our main cooking oil that we use, and a vital ingredient in most of our cuisine,” says Barry, BSM ’20.

Palm oil, though, has raised environmental issues, so Maarouf and his start-up, Eleis Farm, gear toward a more sustainable farming effort.

“We work with our farmers and teach them sustainable farming practices, and then we export all of their goods internationally,” he says.

There is a connection to palm oil all over the world, and Barry seems to be at the center of it.

“I connect African farmers and Africans that live outside the continent. People that live in New York and Paris who have similar cuisine buy our products, and the money that we make we invest back for different activities,” he says. “Whether that is environmental, planting trees for reforestation, or just employing more people. Also, we create a second source of income for families that live out there.”

He has used this experience to help bolster what he does here at Wentworth. It allowed him to earn the prestigious Guinea Ministry of Investments and Public-Private Partnerships co-op to advance his start-up and help him grow as an entrepreneur.

“You have a fund that serves as a salary and a small budget allocated for the start-up, and I have a mentor,” Barry says. “I set up some goals that I’m trying achieve, including a medical equipment fundraiser in the states. I would then bring the equipment back to Guinea and distribute it to hospitals and shelters in the area.”

Since we last caught up with Barry, he has also grown his company’s market range.

“I traveled to Senegal, and I was able to open a new market for our product,” he says. “They have similar cuisine to ours, but they don’t grow palm oil, so they value it a lot. We are in three stores, and we also opened up an office over there.”

With all of this positivity towards his company, Maarouf made it clear that he appreciates the efforts that his professors and mentors have made to help his start-up grow. He appreciates the value of mentorship while growing a business, and explains that it is that sort of guidance that allows for start-ups like his to flourish.

“I’d like to thank Professors Michael Mozill and Santiago Umaschi because they’ve been great mentors and have guided me through my entrepreneurial journey,” he says.

--John Franklin

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