“Agriculture is business!” – Enabling Young Women to Grow Fonio in Northern Ghana


Muneratu Salifu, a 30-year-old farmer, recently started cultivating fonio on a commercial basis. She was informed by an agricultural extension officer about the ready market and input credit support that Amaati Company Ltd provides to female farmers.

Amaati is a woman-owned social enterprise that produces, processes, and markets fonio in Tamale. In 2021, Amaati visited Muneratu’s community to sensitize farmers on fonio production and to profile new farmers. Muneratu seized the opportunity to join Amaati as one of their new out-grower farmers.

Prior to this, she had very little knowledge and interest in growing fonio on a commercial basis in addition to the soybean, cowpea, and sesame crops she was already producing (and earning enough from) to support her husband and 4 children. These crops had ready buyers and were cultivated by many farmers, unlike fonio, at the time, which was mostly cultivated on a subsistence basis, eaten at home, or used to feed poultry, and had no ready market for commercial quantities. Fonio takes just 3 months to mature after fully cultivating.

“As a woman with no work, you need to farm to get money to buy things for your children, pay their school fees and hospital bills, and support with household expenses. As farmers, we mostly look out for crops that have a ready market and will give us money during the planting season, and use the money to support our small trading businesses in the dry season when farming is over.”

Muneratu’s journey

  • In her first year, Muneratu experimented with growing fonio after being given seeds by Amaati: “I tried cultivating fonio last year on an acre of land. Without any agronomy training, I was able to produce 300kg on my farm through the use of the broadcasting method (random spraying seeds on the farm) which we mostly practice when sowing rice.”
  • In 2022, through the support of the Grains for Growth Program to Amaati Company Ltd, Muneratu, received input credit support for fonio seeds, mechanisation services, and Good Agronomic Practices (GAPs) training to cultivate fonio on 2 acres of land.
  • Muneratu is one of 2,874 smallholder farmers supported by Amaati in 42 new communities this year. Through the support of the G4G Program, Amaati will provide a ready market for her produce at a premium price after harvest, allowing her to recoup the input credit given to her at the start of the season in the form of fonio paddy.
  • As part of the process, Munera participated in various GAP stepdown training and field demonstration sessions in her community which were periodically organised by Amaati Field Extension Officers who had been trained by the G4G Master Trainer on Agronomy and the Program Agronomists. The training not only helped her increase her yields but also helped reduce her cost of production while increasing efficiency.

The support from Amaati is part of the interventions under the Grains for Growth Program to Small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in the rice, maise, millet, sorghum and fonio value chains to support the inclusion of about 20,000 smallholder farmers through sourcing grains from them at premium price, empowering them – particularly for women and youth while creating job opportunities and increasing farmer incomes.

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“The knowledge I received from the training, and support from the Field Extension Agents, really helped my fonio farm, my fields are doing great and the difference is clear! The first time I produced fonio without training, I got 3 bags (300kg) on an acre. Planting using the drill method and in lines has really organised my farm and increased my yield. I have harvested two acres so far; I got 5.5 bags (550kg) from one and will get about 6.5 bags (650kg) from the other one when we are done with threshing.”

A 100kg bag of fonio paddy (unprocessed fonio) sells at GHC 180 per bag (with a likely increment in price soon due to high demand and inflation). Munera is projected to earn about GHC 2,160 gross and GHC1,740 net on her 2-acre farm after paying back the input credit debt – ploughing and fonio seeds –  to Amaati. She intends to use the additional income from fonio to start building a shop to trade on a piece of land she acquired some years earlier.

 “I will use the additional income from growing fonio to start my building project (a trading shop) on a small piece of land that I bought some years back. I will also reinvest in my fonio farm to increase the acreage so I can earn more. I process pepper into powder form and make groundnut paste to sell as part of other businesses I do during the dry season when farming is over. My daughter will not have to go around selling them in the community like she does when the shop is completed.”

A message for youth

In her advice to the youth on how to create a conducive atmosphere for young women to develop an interest and consider agriculture as a lucrative activity, Munera recommends the creation of more job opportunities through supporting women with input credit as a form of start-up, like the support that Amaati gives, and providing continuous agronomy training to facilitate first steps of venturing into farming.  According to her, this will help change the perception about farming as capital intensive, increase interest in it, and help women earn extra income to support the education needs of their children.

Educating children, according to her, is a long-term solution with sure rewards to help curb the challenge of north-south migration of young northern girls to do ‘kayayei’ or head-porting where they are put at risk.

“I have observed that a lot of young girls who travel down south to do head-porting or ‘Kayayei’ are those whose parents did not send them to school, either because they could not afford to or because of their mindset (not educating girls long enough since they will be married off). That is why we need extra support and income as women to educate our children.  When you are educated and grow up, you will want to educate your children. Educated people seem to have more interest in farming on a commercial basis, and from what I have seen and experienced so far, the future is in agriculture, and agriculture is business!”

Muneratu is an example of progress, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Stories like hers confirms the impact of our work and ensure our goal of creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, particularly for women and youth. With the Grains for Growth Program, we aim to develop inclusive and economically viable grain-supply chains in Ghana.