Mechanization, a key input to transform the sesame sub-sector: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN
Sesame production in North West Ethiopia mostly depends on human labour. Recently, due to shortage and high costs of labour, you observed a high level of farmers’ interest in mechanization. Mechanisation is proven to increase overall productivity and reduce cost of production representing a value of millions of dollars. It contributes to improved timeliness and quality of field activities that can improve soil, water, pest and weed management.
Even though the sesame zone is very suitable for mechanization, adoption of tested mechanization options is limited due to several reasons:
- limited knowledge on how mechanization contributes to productivity improvement;
- skill limitations in operating and maintaining machineries;
- lack of loan facilities for different farmer groups and absence of lease financing mechanism;
- under-developed machinery supply chain, with limitations of after sales services and spare parts; and
- under-used potential of machinery rental services.
- Even though tailored mechanisation recommendations for different farm categories are available, getting access to appropriate tractors is a key challenge. Several machines for small, medium and commercial farms were tested for efficient sesame seed sowing, weeding and harvesting. However, adaptations and further testing are required. In line with this, it is relevant to support innovation centers for continuous technology development, testing, selection and promotion of machineries and implements like ploughs, planters, cultivators, harvesters and ripper binders that are durable, efficient, easy to operate and maintain.
- While there has been a lot of effort and interest in machinery testing (the hardware), less attention was given to the financing of mechanization and business model development (the software). Recently, the Government of Ethiopia started to allow tax-free purchase of machineries for farmers, cooperatives and unions, which removes an important financial barrier for mechanizing the sector. In addition we need to encourage and implement lease financing for sesame farmers and cooperatives, with active role and dedicated sesame sector mechanization lease financing budgets from Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) and other financing companies (Walya and Kaza). In the short-term we need to support advanced cooperatives eligible for lease financing to exploit the tax exemption privilege and acquire a mechanisation package (tractor, row planter and trailer).
- Furthermore, mechanization efforts do not give sufficient attention to the preparation of skilled labour to professionally operate and maintain tractors and equipment. The same holds true for repair and replacement facilities, especially in the remote rural areas. Due to poor performance of locally made animal drawn planters, mechanized row planting for smallholders remains a challenge (and an opportunity for manufacturers). Mechanisation can also contribute to professional job creation (labourers, machinery operators, workshops providing maintenance service, rental service providers, …).
- It is relevant to create conducive working environments for qualified and equipped private enterprises, cooperatives and organized youth groups to engage in providing agricultural machinery rental service to farmers. This can be done through developing viable business models and provision of training on efficient service provision, business and client management.
- Periodically revise economic policies, looking at loan products and interest rates, as well as legal and regulatory frameworks.
Click here to look at examples of sesame mechanization options tested