9 March 2017
Imagine. Imagine thousands of low-income women farmers whose lands are degraded and infertile due to excessive usage; how can they continue farming to provide for their children and families?
Now imagine again. Imagine there is an indigenous cereal that has the capacity to regenerate infertile soil when planted and is rich with proteins, vitamins and minerals when prepared. Imagine the acres of land that will be regenerated if the low-income women can be supported to grow the indigenous cereal. What about the number of families that will be food sufficient?
The indigenous cereal you imagined can be likened to Fonio, the women are those who live in Northern Ghana, and the enterprise supporting the women to grow Fonio is Unique Quality Product Enterprise (UQPE), a SAG-SEED Award-winning enterprise founded by Salma Abdulai in Tamale, Ghana.
Salma believes there is no such thing as luck. Luck, she believes, is an opportunity created and seized. So since she founded UQPE in 2013, the enterprise has focused on creating and seizing opportunities – and it has done so for some 512 farmers, of which 409 are women and 103 are men.
UQPE supports these farmers in many ways including the provision of improved seeds, offering training on agronomic practices, and post-harvest handling techniques that ensure they produce high-quality Fonio. The enterprise then buys raw Fonio from the farmers’ processes, packages, and sells them in leading retail supermarkets across Ghana.
SEED has been working with UQPE to provide them with tailored training and advisory services to further expand its social, economic and environmental impacts.
During a 3-day workshop and a 2-day follow-up training, SEED worked with UQPE’s key staff on how the enterprise can expand its relationship and value proposition. We guided them through setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound economic, social and environmental targets. And we assisted them to re-strategize on marketing, managing risks and the way forward – an action plan.
With the Triple Bottom Line tool in particular, the team was able to reset concrete social, economic and environmental goals.
Salma and her team welcome new ideas on Fonio, so they enthusiastically completed different aspects of SEED’s toolkit which guided the discussion. By the end of the 5 days, different ways of solving some of the enterprise’s old problems were outlined, new possibilities for partnerships were discovered, and new targets were set.
With the Triple Bottom Line tool in particular, the team was able to reset concrete social, economic and environmental goals. For instance, the enterprise outlined that they want to have 4500 acres of land under Fonio cultivation by 2019. They also want to grow their income by 10% every year and to increase by 5% the number of women reporting an increase in their household income.
In the case of assessing their value chain, the team was able to bring out problems in their operations and deliberated on possible solutions. One key value chain challenge was the lack of reliable dryer: the natural solar dryer in place wasn’t spacious enough and there were not enough funds to establish an artificial solar dryer.
The team brainstormed and explored possible ways of dealing with the challenge. Currently, Northern Rural Growth Program has supported the enterprise with a construction of a $12,415 artificial solar dryer with at least 3 tonnes capacity.
But being at the growth phase of the entrepreneurial stage means the enterprise has additional short-term financial needs such as purchasing of raw Fonio, marketing and promotion, as well as long-term financial needs like purchasing a tractor. Through the SAG-SEED winners’ network, the enterprise is further exploring the possibility of accessing accelerator funds from different sources.
So imagine the impact UQPE will be making in addition to their present achievements if they are able to secure funds to further expand their services. And imagine further, if solutions and impacts such as the one being provided by the UQPE can be replicated – adapted and reproduced – in different geographical locations; HOW many acres of infertile land will be regained? WON’T many households be food secure with healthy Fonio cereal full of nutritious elements? This is the idea of the SEED Replicator: to showcase, learn, adapt and multiply innovative solutions and impacts quickly instead of reinventing the wheel.
So imagine and replicate!
This blog was originally published on SEED’s website