In the impoverished and drought-prone region of North Ghana, 31-year-old Salma Abdulai is leading the charge in entrepreneurship and innovation. Driven by a desire to tackle malnutrition and improve the lives of rural women, Salma launched Unique Quality Product Enterprise, a company that processes Fonio, a sustainable and indigenous crop with extraordinary health benefits.
While others overlooked the potential of Fonio, Salma saw an opportunity. Using her extensive knowledge and academic experience – she holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Technology and a postgraduate degree in Agricultural Economics – she discovered the potential of this crop, which takes only eight weeks to mature and is drought and flood-proof.
In 2013, Salma launched Unique Quality Product Enterprise, processing and marketing the cereal, registering farmers to produce the crop, and building a team based in Tamale to process precooked Fonio for the markets. The business has a holistic approach to addressing social, economic, and environmental problems, as well as addressing food insecurity and unsustainable land management, particularly for landless female farmers with no access to fertile lands.
Salma started Unique Quality Product Enterprise with just 10 landless women, but the business has grown to support 500 farmers – 350 women and 150 men – to produce raw Fonio for the enterprise. Products are marketed under the DIM Fonio brand, which means “eat” in the local language.
For Salma, the decision to launch her own business was not an easy one. She quit a secured bank job to focus on the NGO sector, where she knew the challenges would be great but the work more meaningful. When she saw an opportunity to create jobs for women cultivating Fonio, she pursued it with all her strength, giving back to Ghana in more ways than one. “Hope inspires me to do a lot of things, and I am passionate to achieve those things. And for me, that’s what Ghana is – hope,” she says.
Malnutrition is a serious issue in Ghana, where many children die before the age of five due to poor nutrition. Fonio, however, can grow on less fertile soils, even during droughts, and can be harvested three times in a season. According to Salma, “I believe that in order to have a healthy, active society, we need to start with food.”
As CEO of Unique Quality Product Enterprise, Salma is responsible for the overall management of the company and its day-to-day operations. She is a true leader in the field of agriculture, with 9 years of experience working on different projects with international non-profit organizations. Her experience and passion for agriculture and social consciousness are evident in the success of her company, which has supported hundreds of farmers, particularly women, to improve their livelihoods and contribute to the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.