By Tia Swain, Communications Specialist

The ceremony on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, to inaugurate AMAATI’s newly constructed fonio processing factory in Tamale (Northern Region, Ghana) was attended by dignitaries whose very presence marked the factory’s significance for the community, region, and the nation. These guests of honor included: the Paramount Chief of Nanton, Nanton Naa Alhaji Mahamadu Baba Bawah; the Chief of Nanton, Nanton Naa Mahamadu Bawahthe, who chaired the occasion; Board Chair for AMAATI, Sakoya Naa Mahama Sintaro; USAID/Ghana’s Deputy Mission Director, Ms. Grace Lang; and AMAATI Board Member, Anna Samaké, Executive Director, MBC Africa, and CFO of ShEquity, another Trade Hub co-investment partner. Replete with messages from dignitaries, a performance by a local cultural troupe, a ribbon-cutting, and fonio-based refreshments, the occasion allowed stakeholders and community members to celebrate together.

The group of distinguished guests included  (LEFT TO RIGHT): Robert Asugre, IDH Country Manager; USAID/Ghana Deputy Mission Director, Grace Lang; ⁠Hamza Saana Hamidu, Regional Director – Trade Ministry; Anna Samaké, AMAATI Board Member and Executive Director of MBC Africa; ⁠Chief Sakoya Naa Sintaro Mahama; Salma Abdulai, Co-Founder and CEO of AMAATI; ⁠Professor Francis Amaglo, Dean of University of Development Studies (UDS) Graduate School; ⁠Freeman Abramani, Vice Charman, AGI Northern Chapter

In its 2.5-year co-investment partnership with the Trade Hub, AMAATI met and exceeded nearly every goal—with the pinnacle success being the completion of the largest fonio mill in West Africa, with an extraordinary daily capacity of 10 metric tons. With the Trade Hub’s support and technical assistance (TA), AMAATI, catalyzing over $2.34 million in additional investments, engaged 4,938 new female outgrowers (surpassing the goal of 4,860) and surpassed its job target by employing 270 workers (232 youth, 152 women). As of mid-May 2024, AMAATI was still pursuing the goal of reaching 8,000 total outgrowers engaged by the project’s end on May 30, 2024. AMAATI’s mechanization plans for its 1,000-acre nucleus farm led to the procurement of U.S. farm equipment and vehicles, including a specialized John Deere fonio combine harvester. Over the course of the partnership, AMAATI increased its number of international buyers from 3 to 26, and the company’s sales surpassed $2.8 million.

USAID/Ghana’s Deputy Mission Director, Ms. Grace Lang, shared her appreciation for fonio itself as a “superfood” and for its impact in meeting shared economic and development goals.  “It is truly gratifying to be a part of this ceremony, which validates our initiative under the Trade Hub. Through AMAATI, we aim to collaborate for greater impact, improving the livelihoods of women and youth farmers, boosting the economy in the north, and promoting climate-smart cultivation of fonio, a native and highly nutritious West African grain,” Lang shared.

Though it is an ancient grain, fonio’s place as a large-scale export crop is considered emergent. As such, many attending the inauguration were introduced to fonio and learned about its cultivation through hearing about the processes for AMAATI’s fonio products.  The dignitaries had the distinct experience of observing the mill up-close, which is seldom allowed due to the proprietary nature of the bespoke machinery.

Deputy Mission Director Lang went on to acknowledge and congratulate the AMAATI team for their landmark achievements, “We are honored to be part of the revival of this “forgotten orphan” crop in Ghana, thanks to the dedication of [AMAATI’s] founders, Salma and Chief Abdulai. More than a business venture, I understand this is the realization of a dream that took a great deal of compassion, courage, and perseverance to pursue. Well done!”  

USAID/Ghana’s Deputy Mission Director (DMD), Ms. Grace Lang, shared her personal appreciation of fonio, the ancient grain being revitalized through AMAATI’s pursuit of nourishing the world while empowering rural women by training them to be fonio farmers. Photo credit: USAID/Ghana

Distinguished guests of the May 29, 2024, inauguration included several local leaders and traditional chiefs, including the regal presence of the Paramount Chief of Nanton, Nanton Naa Alhaji Mahamadu Baba Bawah. Photo credit: USAID/Ghana