Imagine and Replicate
Imagine thousands of low-income women farmers whose lands are degraded and infertile because of overuse. 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 could be regenerated if these low-income women were given support to grow the indigenous cereal. Think about the number of families that could become food sufficient instead of food insufficient.
The indigenous cereal 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. Since founding UQPE in 2013, the enterprise has focused on creating and seizing opportunities – and it has done so for around 512 farmers, 409 of which are women and 103 are men.
UQPE supports these farmers in many ways, including providing improved seeds and offering training on agronomic practices and post-harvest handling techniques that ensure production of 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 three-day workshop and a two-day follow-up training, SEED worked with UQPE’s key staff to expand the enterprise’s 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 in re-strategizing their approach to marketing, managing risks and the way forward – an action plan.
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 five 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 who report an increase in their household income.
In the case of assessing their value chain, the team was able to pinpoint problems in their operations and deliberated 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 the construction of a $12,415 artificial solar dryer that has at least 3 tonnes of capacity.
But being at the growth phase of the entrepreneurial stage means the enterprise has additional short-term financial needs, such as purchasing raw Fonio and marketing and promotion, as well as long-term financial needs, like purchasing a tractor. Through the SAG-SEED winners’ network, the enterprise is able to further explore the possibility of accessing accelerator funds from different sources.
So now you can 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? How many households will become food secure because of access to the healthy Fonio cereal full of nutrients? 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!
Salma Abdulai, the force behind UQPE, is a finalist in the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards!