Flophoria – the female-led business promoting Tunisia’s biodiversity

February 25, 2022

Thbainia, a mountainous region of Ain Draham in northwestern Tunisia, is renowned for its pine and oak forests. It’s a popular area among nature lovers and hikers, but it in recent years land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are threatening the sustainability of the forests. Determined to safeguard the region’s unique plant species, 27 year old Rania Aloui launched Flophoria, a nursery for medicinal plants.

I became aware about environmental issues during my degree in pharmaceutical biotechnology. After finishing my studies, unlike many women graduates in the region and against all odds, I decided to start a business to help preserve my region’s biodiversity.”

In her entrepreneurial quest, Rania discovered the Thbainia cooperative. Since 2012, the 45 female members have been working together on the gathering and distillation of mountain plants. She got closer to the group and put her know-how at the service of this community.

“I quickly realized the difficulties the cooperative were experiencing, especially the lack of raw materials and the danger this represents for the preservation of the region’s plant heritage,“ explains Rania. “Wild fires and cutting methods that don’t respect nature have led to the near extinction of certain species. In addition, the massive exploitation of resources and the closure of state nurseries in the mountains due to the risk of terrorism have made the problem worse. This fueled my idea to grow mountain plants in greenhouses.”

After three years working in the distillation of medicinal plants, Rania obtained funding from an Italian organization to launch her greenhouse, where she cultivates sage, rosemary, verbena, geranium, basil, wild and officinal lavender, but also ornamental plants for gardens and interiors to generate additional income.

“Joining the project Mashrou3i at the end of 2020, has been decisive for my nursery project, the valorization of my products and the strengthening of my value chain. Currently I am negotiating with farmers and land owners to expand my nursery so that I can increase the supply of raw materials to meet the needs of the region.”

Rania also joined a group of women entrepreneurs in the north-west in 2021 who received technical assistance from Mashrou3i in order to develop their technical skills and diversify their products to enhance their income and reach new markets.

“Mashrou3i has enabled me to develop my project and start transforming essential oils into high-quality cosmetic products.  This important step certainly requires financing, but I am taking it step by step. As they say, slowly but surely.”

Rania has also benefited from an online marketing training course, with an expert advising her on packaging and branding. She is currently working with Mashrou3i on her graphic design and brand identity. The registration of her brand Flophoria has been another step to value her products.  The entrepreneur also aims to obtain organic certification to reach new markets with the support of Mashrou3i.