#LLABlog: Salma Abdulai is empowering marginalized women by producing fonio — a nearly-extinct West African grain. Here’s how!

Salma Abdulai is the Co-Founder and CEO of AMAATI Company limited, a company that reflects her experience and passion for agriculture and social consciousness. She has her background in Agricultural Economics and has 10 years of experience working on different projects with International non-profit organizations. Her extensive experience in the agriculture sector is particularly focused on working with small scale rural farmers and women groups across Africa. She has managed AMAATI CO. Ltd since 2013 to become profitable, an agri-business company she co-founded which is into the processing and marketing of Fonio for local and export markets.

Salma first heard about fonio when she was a child because it was what was given to widows to help them survive. It was a staple crop in Northern Ghana and has enormous health and nutritional benefits missing in most cereals but was not sold. It was only used during certain cultural activities. 

Fonio was an indigenous food that had been neglected, yet it was the only crop that could grow very well on marginal lands without fertilizers. It is known to remain viable for well over a century without the risk of pest infestation but takes just eight weeks (two months) to mature for harvest. 

She then realized that most women in rural savannah had no access to fertile lands due to culture and tradition and the only available lands were degraded lands which couldn’t support food crop cultivation thereby compromising food security so She registered ten landless, woman farmers from the community under her NGO, “Tuyumtaba” which translates as “Let’s love each other.” Each woman would be given an acre of land to farm the cereal. 

After some years, Salma’s husband, Abdulai Dasani joined her venture, and the duo changed the company’s name from Unique Quality Product Enterprise to Amaati Group.

Amaati produces 2.5 tons of fonio daily and currently assists over three thousand marginalized, rural farmers from 50 different communities with the tools and training required to produce the cereal.

Fonio can be stored for several years and this makes it helpful to address the issue of food insecurity because it is stored during the post‐harvest period by families and used during the food shortage periods. And because of its high nutritional content, it is in a way helping with child malnutrition, which is a major problem in the North of Ghana.

Seventy percent of Amaati’s DIM Fonio brand is distributed across four regions in Ghana while the remaining 30 percent is exported to Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and South Africa.

You can also learn more about the work of Salma Abdulai and her team at AMAATI by sending an email to: info@amaatigroup.com or visit the company’s website and social media platforms.

 

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