The Rise of Tamanaa Company Limited

Tamanaa is derived from a Mampruli phrase and means ‘King of hope’. It therefore perfectly describes the story of Tamanaa Company Limited as an integrated agribusiness involved in rice farming, milling and processing. It is located in Nasia, in the Northeast region of Ghana. In 2015, Alhaji Saibu Braimah, CEO of the company, was called to action when he purchased rice in Tamale and realized that the price for imported rice was extremely high in comparison to local alternatives.

This experience motivated him to inquire why consumers still purchase imported rice at a higher price, instead of resorting to the local ones. His investigations showed that the local rice was not purchased because consumers complained of the quality of the rice, especially finding stones in them.

The first rice factory where it all started So in 2015, Alhaji Saibu Braimah together with his team decided to take a bold move and go into the rice milling business. He acquired a ‘destoner’ which removes stones from the rice, a hauler, a grader, a polisher and land well suited for the cultivation of rice.

Unfortunately, before the year ended, all produced rice was lost due to a fire outbreak at the farm. This, however, did not discourage Alhaji Saibu Braimah. Instead, he rather went on to complete his rice milling factory in February 2016.

“We were focused right from the beginning. I sold my uncompleted building, and my land and started rice cultivation and everything got burnt. But thank God, in 2019, I was able to complete my house, which is even three times bigger than what I sold, so I have not regretted it. I admit that in the process I wanted to give up, but my deputy, Tia Alidu said no, people will laugh at us, so we shouldn’t lose hope. Now we have our own land which is 1.000 hectares and still expanding it up to 1.500 hectares.”  said Alhaji Saibu Braimah.

Today, Tamanaa has the second largest installed capacity of 15MT/hr, and is a leading mill in Ghana in terms of visibility as well as modern equipment. Tamanaa made a difference in involving women from the beginning and created jobs and revenue for them.

The company’s aim for the next three years is to move beyond Ghana and start operations within and even beyond ECOWAS. Like with every business, Alhaji encountered challenges when he first started this business. The local market was a limitation: Consumers were not ready to purchase from him, as they still believed that local rice had stones. Alhaji and team initiated a sensitization campaign to educate and convince people to buy from them. Communication mediums such as the radio stations, restaurants, market centers were used for this campaign. In no time, consumers realized that the local rice produced from Tamanaa was different and did not have stones.

CARI is a regional initiative commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), co-financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and implemented by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). In 2022, CARI merged into the Market-oriented Value Chains for Jobs and Growth Project (MOVE) and, together with the ECOWAS Commission as its political partner, continues to develop the rice industry in West Africa.

Also, the issue of prices was addressed as local rice was cheaper as compared to imported rice. In addition to these challenges at the beginning, Tamanaa was facing limitations in access to finance. “We went to one bank for loan but then realized that the interest rate was 40%. So, we noticed that if we resorted to loans for our 10 years of hard work, we wouldn’t be able to pay the interest. And we were not targeting the international banks too”, said Alhaji Saibu Braimah.

While persisting to overcome some of the challenges faced, especially how to get the raw materials, they encountered and collaborated with the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) in 2017. This 2-year collaboration strengthened the business of Tamanaa through trainings and technical know-how. Thus, Tamanaa could scale up their business. Up to 1,500 farmers were registered and receiving support and trainings on good agricultural practices for yield increase, and business skills such as marketing, branding, documentation, proposal writing, financial agreement preparation, etc. Another 300 women also received trainings, and two vessels for parboiling from CARI. “With the skill we acquired from CARI project, we did a follow-up training for the community. After this training, we realized that the quality had gone up, and the farms visited showed amazing results. Other farmers were also impressed and joined the 1.500 farmers, so the total farmers became 4.000. Others came to us for advice after seeing our yield and what I always said to them was that it is as a result of the good practices we got from GIZ. I will always be grateful to GIZ. I will admit, initially I thought GIZ was coming to give us money. Little did I know that they were coming to give us more than money. GIZ gave us the technical know-how so we can survive even after they left, and I must say I am very appreciative of that. CARI project under GIZ is one I can never forget” said Alhaji Saibu Braimah on the collaboration with GIZ. The success speaks for itself: Currently Tamanaa has 105 casual workers who are being provided with accommodation, 67 full-term staff and 4,000 farmers, and a production design capacity of 290 tons per day.  

The collaboration with CARI/GIZ, linked the company to other development partners such as the sustainable Trade Initiative IDH and the Master Card Foundation who played a role in farmer and women outreach trainings, the Eximbank for investment, the development Bank KfW under the MOFA Out grower value chain fund contributed to increase the company’s working capital for increasing the number of out grower farmers, the collaboration with 2Scale for the branding of the company. According to Alhaji Braimah, most of the farmers are young. Unlike in the past, youth now see rice cultivation as a business.  Another major achievement for Tamanaa is that they are part of the ongoing school feeding project and are currently responsible for the provision of rice to public schools in Northeast Ghana. This contract was given to Tamanaa by the President of the Republic of Ghana, his Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo after visiting the factory. Additionally, the Ghana armed forces request for rice produced by Tamanaa for their events. Not only does Tamanaa produce and process rice, they also produce and sell soya flour, which is often processed by the people in the community. In addition, Tamanaa also provides trainings on Good Agricultural Practices for farmers in the community.

Though Tamanaa seems to be doing well at the moment, there is still the need for further training activities. The business model being used at farm is ‘Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)’. New models such as Sustainable Rice Platform (‘SRP’) for higher efficiency have just started, with a first training having taken place in May 2022. Looking at the impressive growth journey of Tamanaa and the huge impact made on the lives of thousands of rural women and men, we expect to continue in joint actions with the committed leadership, government and other actors.

Author: Issah Nadjo
Publishing date: 129 May 2023