Category Archives: SBN news

Lessons learned: BENEFIT-SBN promotion of rotation crops in the sesame dominated production and market systems


In the lowlands of north-west Ethiopia, farmers mainly depend on sesame and sorghum, respectively for cash and food. Together these two crops account for more than 90% of the cultivated land. Among others, this situation bears different risks:

  • (i) mono-cropping leading to soil depletion and increased pest and disease infestation;
  • (ii) farmers’ dependency on single cash crop that has a volatile market; and
  • (iii) a monotonous diet (low diet diversity score) of resident population and seasonal labourers.

In response to this, BENEFIT-SBN (Sesame Business Network) programme started promotion of rotation crops in the lowlands of Northwest Ethiopia, with three main objectives: sustainable agricultural production, farmer income improvement and diversification, food and nutrition security and diversity. Emphasis was put on the improvement of sorghum production and marketing, and introduction of soya and mung bean, as these can importantly contribute to soil fertility management and reduced incidence of pests and diseases.

Lessons Learned

  1. Selecting of the right rotational crops: It is important to give focus on rotation crops that are most important for sustainable farming practices, contribute to diet diversification and have market potential, with due attention given to seed supply, food habits, storage and farmer company relations and, if appropriate for livestock feeding. SBN was successful in introducing crops that are important in the context of climate change, such as short-cycle mung bean that is becoming more important as nutritious food to farmers and daily labourers. In addition, the adoption and expansion of soya bean is very encouraging in Amhara and has the potential for selling to food and oil processing companies. Nevertheless, more attention could have been given to existing alternative cash crops like cotton and sunflower, as a new emerging rotation crop important for production of edible oils. 
  1. Testing and validation: Exploring, testing and demonstrating a broad range of crops and varieties in collaboration with farmers and mandated research institutes and extension services is critical for successful uptake and scaling. Between 2014 and 2018, rotation crops were demonstrated at farmer training centres (FTC’s) and in farmer fields. Farmers have been supported to grow and market sorghum, soya and mung bean. Tens of thousands of farmers observed these plots and were triggered to consider growing them. Feedback of farmers was used to set priorities for scaling out rotation crops. A malt sorghum variety (Deber) was tested on field performance, as well as on its suitability for brewing.
  1. Quantity and quality of seed: One of the challenges faced by SBN related to getting the right quantity and quality seed at the right time. Currently, seed supply depends on research centres and seed producer cooperatives and private investors are not in place for seed multiplication for rotation crops.
  1. Capacity building (training, manuals and other relevant support documents): To ensure sustainability, it is critical to build the capacity of experts and farmers using different mechanisms. In addition to continuous training, the programme produced and distributed three practical field guides explaining recommended agricultural practices to farmers (for sorghum in 2017, for mung and soya bean in 2019). Soya bean and mung bean preparation recipes were developed and shared, mainly with women, during practical training sessions.
  1. Market linkage: The successes achieved in market linkage were achieved through the facilitation role the programme played to connecting companies to sourcing areas, including building a good understanding of delivery contracts. Unions were supported to enter in contract agreement with Diageo for the delivery of malt sorghum to malting factories. Visits were organized for companies to see the production zone and discuss with farmers. Because of the growing interest in mung bean sand soya bean, the legumes were included in the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) marketing system, to facilitate sales. For sorghum, an effort to link producers with buyers started good but was discontinued since farmers defaulted because of price volatility.
  1. Collaboration: The recommended practices for sorghum, mung bean and soya bean were developed and consolidated, in collaboration with GARC, HuARC and BoA and the promotion of rotation crops was part of the collaboration agreements with BoA and ARCs. It is relevant to plan the rotation crop promotion programme in collaboration with several stakeholders, both at the production and market side. This institutional collaboration helped to make the promotion of rotation crops a success.

Read more here.

WCDI Director visited BENEFIT-SBN programme in Ethiopia

Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI)  Director, Hedwig Bruggeman visited BENEFIT-SBN programme in Humera area on Sep 3-4, 2019. She was accompanied by Irene Koomen,  BENEFIT Coordinator (WUR), BENEFIT PCU staff, research center experts, BoA experts, Subject Matter Specialists, Development Agents and farmers. The main objective of her visit was to see one of BENEFIT programme performance and collaboration in its final implementation year and to better understand the programme to inform BENEFIT II project design.

The team visited a number of initiatives in Tigray and Amhara regions. Namely,

  1. Dansha area home garden activity on use of organic fertilizer application;
  2. Adebay cluster farming approach (87 farmers) for better access to extension system (human resource), row planter, market and farm management;
  3. Mebale multipurpose primary cooperative to see the result of capacity development activities in agronomy and financial literacy;
  4. Meherab Arachio Woreda Farmers’ Training Center (FTC) where BENEFIT-SBN has been providing technical support (coaching of DAs);
  5. Delelign commercial farm which is a private farm where BENEFIT-SBN demonstrate rotational crops for environmental sustainability;
  6. Meherab Aramchio Agricultural Research Center seed multiplication site. A collaborative effort between BENEFIT-ISSD and BENEFIT-SBN where ISSD works to strengthen seed cooperative management and marketing skill.
  7. Hiwot mechanization farm where implantation of rotational crops is implemented;
  8. Rawyna seed production center; and
  9. A farmer using 20 step approach.

At the end of the meeting Hedwig appreciated the success achieved so far, the strong collaboration among stakeholders, and the use of different approaches to meet the different needs of the community. It was also encouraging to see some of the approaches are already being institutionalized and becoming agenda items at high level discussion forums.

Overall, the visit was valuable to appreciate the successes achieved, better understand challenges that slow down progress and encourage the team to think next steps and game changer for the sesame sector, for the next phase of BENEFIT.


Field day organized to boost the support of key stakeholders in sesame production

On September 17th, 2018, BENEFIT-SBN in collaboration with Gondar Agricultural Research Center (GARC), Central Gondar Zone Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) organized a field day to showcase scaling up activities of improved sesame and rotation production technologies conducted in the 2018 production season. Close to 400 people, including higher-level government officials from federal to woreda level and sesame farmers in Tach Armachiho and Tegede woredas attended the event.

The field day was a great opportunity to see the results of the collaboration effort on 240 hectares of land, where sesame yield doubled and tripled through applying improved production technology.  It was noted that, while using traditional practice brings 2-4 quintals per hectare, the new improved sesame and rotation production technology showed the possibility of harvesting more than eight quintals of sesame per hectare. The participants also visited soya bean production in small-scale and large-scale farms and discussed challenges and way forward on both crops.

In recognition of the zonal effort in the sesame sector, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resource (MoALR) awarded two sesame harvesting machines to GARC. Read more

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.