Rice Processor Transforming Women Farmers Lives in Ghana
Memunatu Alhassan is the proprietor of the Lowlandi Rice Processing Centre in Tamale, Northern Ghana. For more than a decade, Lowlandi has been aggregating rice from smallholder farmers in the region forprocessing and retail.
Like many small and medium agribusiness enterprises operating in Ghana and in most of Africa, Lowlandi lacked access to finance to expand. They did not have the right quantity and quality of raw material required for processing. As paddy supply was erratic,Lowlandi could not meet the rising demand for rice.
Since 2018, Memunatu has received funds to expand her business to serve more smallholder farmers and meet the ever expanding consumer demand for the grain. This was made possible through a project by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Special Initiative – “One World-No Hunger”.
As a result, Lowlandi has increased the quantity of rice processed from 6.1MT per day in 2017 to 10.2 MTs per day in 2018. Memunatu says, “This project has improved the quality and quantity of paddy I receive to keep my mill operating almost at full capacity. Our customers are happier and the bank account is looking good; our profits are up by about 30%”.
Good business for the center has created ripple positive outcomes in the community. For example, the number of women processors working at the enterprise has grown from 23 in 2017 to 50 in 2018. One of the workers, Mma Azara, says, “Parboiling and sorting rice at the center has provided me with a reliable source of income to take care of myself and my children. The more rice we process, the more income I will make”.
Additionally, smallholder women rice farmers from nearby communities (Vittin, Lamashegu, Nyashegu and Choggu) brought in their parboiled riceto the processing centre to mill at a fee. Also, Lowlandi bought the rice milled by the women if it was the AGRA variety providing them with ready market.
As Lowlandi’s production capacity increases, Memunatu plans to acquire a second mill and a mechanized color sorter to end the manual sorting of rice at the Center. She is also organizing women smallholder rice farmers into Farmer Based Organization (FBO) to enhance efficiency.
Creating the impact witnessed and the linkages between the agribusiness and farmers was made possible by the consortium of institutions implementing the project. 1n 2018, Lowlandi, a member of the Ghana Rice Inter-professional Body (GRIB), got into contact with Hopeline Institute, a member of the consortium implementing the 3-year project dubbed “Public-Private Partnership for Competitive and Inclusive Rice Value Chain Development
To enable Lowlandi meet its increased requirements for paddy in the 2019 production season, Hopeline Institute linked the enterprise to smallholder farmers in the Upper East Region. The project has supported these farmers to access improved seeds and fertilizer and trained them in good agricultural practices. The entry of Lowlandi into the project meant that the farmers had a ready market for their produce.
Ebow Graham, Project Manager of Hopeline Institute describes Lowlandi, one of the over 200,000 rice value chain actors (aggregators and processors)supported by the project as “A key actor in the rice value chain. The provision of ready market for smallholders supported under the project is encouraging them to increase production”.
For Memunatu and women engaged in rice value chain activities in Northern Ghana, the project has provided a great opportunity to increase productivity and yields and earn more income for financial inclusion. It also contributes to the realization of Ghana agricultural aspireation outlined in its Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme.