Sesame, the white gold, is getting due attention

A National field day from Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2017 was organized by the three BENEFIT partnership Programs ISSD, CASCAPE and SBN together with Tigray Regional Bureau of Agriculture and Humara Research Center of TARI at Humera and Asgede Tsembela woredas in Tigray. The objective of the field day was to share demonstrated evidences of improved practices and technologies in sesame production and to discuss on current challenges and opportunities in boosting sesame production and marketing. So that smallholders, commercial farms, and exporters engaged in sesame production can maximize the benefit.

Given the importance of sesame as the main export crop, the field day was attended by high level officials including HE Dr. Eyasu Abrha, Minister and HE Ato Tesfay Mengiste, State Minister of MoANR, HE Dr. Bekele Bulcha, Minister and Ato Ayana Zewede, State Minister of MoT, Chairwomen of Parliament Agriculture standing committee HE W/ro Almaz Melesa and HE Deputy Chairman Ato Kassea Berhanu,  Ato Fiseha Bezabeh, Deputy Head, Regional BoA, Ato Esayas Tadesse, Administrator, Western Zone of Tigray, experts, representative smallholder sesame farmers and  commercial farms, BENEFIT Partnership cluster/regional managers and experts.

The field day considered visits of different research trials in research field, demonstration fields at Farmer Training Centers (FTCs), commercial farms and smallholder farmers and discussion at field level and general discussion. With due attention for sesame, research and demo fields of sorghum and other legume crops were visited. The main contents of the field visits were innovations in participatory variety selection, improved agronomic practices (the 20 steps for Sesame), mechanization, rotational crops and fertilizer recommendation validation. Moreover, the discussions covered how these evidences can be scaled up, how required inputs can be accessed, what measures are expected from the public sector.

Following the field visits, a general discussion, co-chaired by Ministers of MoARD and MoT, and Chairwoman of the Parliament Agriculture standing Committee, was made and the major issues discussed were (i) the need to capacitate sesame research, (ii) promotion of sesame mechanization (pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest), (iii) sesame marketing related to ECX practices and the need for branding, and (iv) market access for Sorghum. Following the discussion, the ministers gave directions. Firstly Ato Tesfaye, state Minister of MoARD said, it is known that mechanization challenges Sesame production and government is working on the issue on the other hand he advised investors to see options of buying and leasing for smallholders and he said government is willing to help in all regards as sesame is one of the priority crops in GTP2. Ato Ayana, State Minister of MoT said currently Coffee and sesame are priority crops for government and the strategy which is approved for coffee will be implemented for sesame with some modification in near future. He said, this strategy will give answer for all the challenges raised in Sesame marketing including problems related to ECX, branding etc. And about Sorghum he said, marketing system is already established for farmers to sale their sorghum with reasonable price. Therefore, MIT will strengthen the system and investigate further the issue, why the established system faced challenge in Humera.  Dr. Kebede also confirmed what his deputy said and he added he is impressed by what he sow and all the questions raised related to trade and marketing, which are noted by MoT and they will do what is necessary to alleviate the challenges the farmers are facing.

Finally, Dr. Eyasu recognized all the participants and the organizers of the field day, he said all stakeholders deserved to be thanked for their effort to see the success at this stage. Specifically, he recognized and thanked Tigray regional BOARD, Humera research center, Mekele University, ATA, BENEFIT CASCAPE, ISSD and SBN programs for their valuable contribution in this effort. In his final speech, he requested BENEFIT Partnership programs to explore further how both small-scale and large scale sesame mechanization options can be demonstrated to the sesame sector as mechanization has become the top challenge for the sector.