Category Archives: SBN news

BENEFIT-SBN published its second sesame alert

Promoting the use of information management system in the Ethiopian sesame sector: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

From 2016-2019, one of Sesame Business Network (SBN)’s initiatives focused on promoting the use of information management system in the Ethiopia sesame sector. The effort that started with an Excel database in 2016-2017, evolved into a sector management information system, based on a tailored, more advanced software application. The pilot was implemented in 2018-2019 in four kebeles, with a vision of having a public digital information management system that is up-to-date, reliable and accessible, supporting all sector stakeholders and paid through a levy system.

Specific objectives of the pilot included: (i) support transparency with a public database; (ii) facilitate the provision of public services by government agencies to farmers; (iii) promote in-depth sector analysis through customized reports; (iv) digitize member administration of cooperatives; and (v) support information exchange between cooperatives and unions.

With increased access to computers and the internet, public agencies and farmers’ organizations in the commercial sesame sector are increasingly showing interest in using digitalized information system to gather, share and use consolidated information for professional planning, management, transparency, collaboration and trade.

The process of providing the Excel database and developing the digital information system, which included working with handheld devices and software, training and frequent discussions have raised the awareness of stakeholders on the importance of reliable digitalized field data. As partners in tailoring the software, they have gained insights about how to: i) work with software programs, ii) structure and prioritize information iii) organize data collection and quality control, iv) exchange information with other partners and v) analyse data and produce a report.

The process over the years

The first step towards information management was the establishment of woreda databases in Excel, which is a widely available and known tool. Databases were developed, based on available information on key parameters such as population, land, cultivated acreages for different crops, production, productivity and market prices. Whenever possible, attention was given to disaggregate information according to gender and age. By the end of 2017, the databases were handed over to 13 woredas, with appropriate training on how to use and maintain it.

In 2018, two digital information systems were introduced (FarmForce and eProd). Both systems were specifically developed for smallholder agricultural production and marketed in remote areas. They work with a mobile application to collect field level data, including GPS references. A desktop application allows for extensive analyses of collected data and can generate several reports.

Several stakeholders of the sesame sector, BoA, CPO, unions and cooperatives, have been involved to build a sector-wide information management system that meets their data and information needs. Based on the eProd software, which was further developed and tailored for the sesame sector, the piloting was done in two kebeles in Tigray and two kebeles in Amhara regions. By the end of 2019, field and farmer information was entered in the system for four kebeles (6,677 farmers), two kebeles in Amhara (3,038 farmers) and two in Tigray (3,639 farmers).

Lessons learnt

  1. Limited infrastructure and human capacity. Stakeholders hardly own functional hardware to install the software. Power cuts, virus infections and damaged hardware make installation and reliable functioning of the software challenging. In addition, stakeholders have limited experience to work with computers and any type of software. As a result, the training of dedicated staff members was time-consuming, compounded by high staff turnover.
  2. Start from a simple solution and have a multi step introductory approach. The Excel based woreda databases featured several benefits like low cost, easy understanding and use, and flexible formats. In the context of non-existing digital data collection practices and a non conducive environment, a more incremental approach, with a modest scope at the beginning, reduces the time and investments for getting a digital information system up and running. This reduces the risk of errors and limited use of the information system.
  3. Software customization. The software was adapted to accommodate specific needs and translated in local languages. Translation from English to Amharic and Tigrinya was a very time consuming exercise. A tailor-made system increases the likelihood of relevancy and future use by local stakeholders.
  4. User friendliness. Some software interfaces are more intuitive and easier to use than others. A combination of a simple mobile and advanced desktop application is a good solution to accommodate the different stakeholder capacities and needs.
  5. Offline functionality. In a context of unreliable access to internet, an offline system is a valuable asset.
  6. Data collection and modification. Data collection in the field, including GPS referencing, takes time. Stakeholder expectations and data correction need to be carefully managed. Moreover, if data entering or correction is not carefully managed or users can easily modify the format (Excel), data quality and aggregation are at risk. Digitized systems and consistent processes can help to reduce this risk.
  7. Data aggregation and multi-stakeholder accessibility. Software systems make it easy to aggregate data at different administrative levels (e.g. from kebeles to woreda, zone and regional level). The generic information can be easily accessed by various stakeholders, who can add and manage additional information streams according to their specific needs. This requires dedicated, competent staff.
  8. Community acceptance. The most important data input providers are farmers. Providing personal information requires trust and understanding. Careful introduction with the help of community leaders or local authorities is key. Clear benefits, such as weather forecast services and others, enhance the likelihood of acceptance.
  9. Stakeholder support and benefits. Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) and unions supported the hosting of staff and shared costs for transport (motorcycles). This contribution is important, especially for creating ownership. Benefits of the information system stimulate users to make an effort and invest.
  10. Technical assistance. Digital tools are complicated and can face many technical problems. A computer expert who knows the information system is needed to support stakeholders with any challenges they face along the way.
  11. Sustainability/affordability of scaling. The introduction of advanced information management systems comes at high implementation costs (field staff and experts, computers, phones, motorbikes). System licenses are often expensive and require yearly payments in forex, which is an issue in Ethiopia.
  12. Integration into daily processes. The organisations participating in the pilot are used to a certain way of working and procedures. Integrating a new information management system in their daily work routines is a major challenge. This requires the support and commitment of higher officials.
  13. Moving towards a digital information system is a long process. During the past years, the pilot in the mentioned four pilot kebeles is a first proof of concept. The next step is to explain the process, lessons learnt and current proof of concept to higher officials of different stakeholder organizations, who increasingly believe the need for a digital system. High level buy-in can facilitate the change of work routines and the search for sustainable funding, for which a levy system is a possible solution.

BENEFIT-SBN published its first COVID-19 Sesame Alert

BENEFIT-SBN published its first Sesame Alert that highlights COVID-19 related challenges and urgent actions needed in the Ethiopian sesame sector. It was developed to better understanding how the virus and measures taken to cope with it are affecting the sesame sector and support the development of urgent coping strategies that enhance resilience and support continuity of activities of the sector. The brief outlines the major alters, their impacts, actions required, stakeholders involved, and a responsible body to take the initiatives.

The first quick scan started in mid-May. Based on sector transformation tool from aidenviromnet, a questionnaire (max 15 min) covering issues throughout the sesame value chain, including production, inputs, credit, market, labour, finance, extension, communication, collaboration was developed and shared on line with 75 respondents. The results of the questionnaires were then presented for Focus Group Discussion (FGDs), where local panel of 24 experts representing the government, research, the private identified coping strategies and responsible stakeholders to take action.

The sesame alter brief (#01 May 202 Sesame Alert) is being shared with relevant stakeholders of the sesame sector in three languages- English, Amharic and Tigrigna, via WCDI, BENEFIT and SBN websites and social media outlets. In addition there is a plan to share the information via regional media. In the coming weeks and months, BENEFIT-SBN will work with the stakeholders to initiate, drive and support actions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 related challenges.

The initiative is part of WUR effort working with strategic partners in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda to generate a set of targeted alerts to combat the spread of the virus and minimize its negative impact on food security. Reiteration of the quick scan will be done at least monthly for the full duration of the crisis.

Read more on #01 Ethiopia Sesame Alert – May 2020 

  • Alert 1: Reduced area of sesame cultivation affects future export revenues
  • Alert 2: Availability of labour and welfare of labourers are of major Concern
  • Alert 3: Mobility restrictions hamper input delivery and extension services
  • Alert 3: Increased production costs result in a more acute need for credit

 

 

Ethiopian sesame sector post-harvest value creation and market linkages: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

In the past 5 years, Sesame Business Network (SBN) has conducted many studies and supported several specific initiatives, with the aim to increase Ethiopia sesame value creation, to establish constructive relations between value chain operators, and to improve the income of farmers and their organisations. The programme faced many challenges that made it difficult to achieve its target of achieving 10% higher farmer income from value addition and market linkages.

A three-page lessons learned paper “Post-harvest value creation: a fundamental challenge for the Ethiopian sesame sector” was prepared in the summer of 2019, highlighting all initiatives of the past 4 years and essential factors that inhibited the sesame sector product and market development. Concerning the current context, the paper concluded that:

  1. farmers can get a relatively high domestic price for raw sesame and are not rewarded for producing quality sesame or investing in value addition activities;
  2. there are no incentives for direct supplier-buyer relations;
  3. sesame is an expensive input for local food processing; and
  4. policies for creating a more enabling business environment are missing (i.e. imported oil is subsided, domestic/local oil is taxed).

As a result, post-harvest value creation is virtually absent and mainly confined to cleaning and artisanal oil production for the local market.

Lessons learned 

  1. In the last 5 years the programme was successful in efforts related to yield improvement for cost price reduction, farmers’ access to input credit, marketing credit for cooperatives to operate on spot markets (taking advantage of the high ECX prices and reducing the risk of traders’ collusion), first cleaning by cooperatives and unions, artisanal oil production for local markets using poorest sesame quality and production and marketing of rotation crops. Initiatives that did not achieve their goal included direct export of unions, trade missions, sesame quality management and grading, storage and conservation, investments in cleaning and oil extraction, development of organic value chains. Under prevailing circumstances, it proved almost impossible to develop feasible business initiatives and product and value chain development proved to be an uphill battle.
  2. Higher value markets (Middle East, Europe, North America, Japan and Korea) have clear requirements for the appearance, aroma, taste, oil content and purity of the product. Currently, buyers from these markets are not interested to directly source sesame from Ethiopian producers, mainly because of quality and food safety problems.
  3. Ethiopia has comparative advantages for producing highly valued white varieties (suitable for bakery industry), tasty varieties (suitable for tahini and halva consumers) and varieties with high oil content. There are also opportunities for value added products such as hulled, toasted, roasted, and grounded sesame, oil, tahini and halva.
  4. The inflated ECX prices are not to the disadvantage of farmers, however without market reform value chains are not developed and Ethiopia is losing its position in the increasingly competitive international sesame market. As of recent, the Government of Ethiopia has set out to control ECX prices, so as to avoid higher than international market prices. This may create a new business context, wherein ECX prices would be aligned with the international market prices. In the short run, this would not be an advantage to the farmers. Conditions for feasible post-harvest value adding activities would however be created: cleaning, storage, tracing and certification, processing, branding and labelling, packaging, wholesale and retail of food products. An important challenge is to develop these activities in a farmer-inclusive manner, e.g. to develop cooperative business activities.
  5. For developing post-harvest value creation and to establish real value chains with collaboration and transactions among different operators, a package of fundamental changes is required, some of which are the following:
    • Provision of export licenses for professional sesame exporters (e.g. unions and cooperatives), who are not allowed to be engaged in import business. This will create a level playing field with current local buyers. An important accompanying measure is to promote alternative hard currency sources for importing companies.
    • Development of a grading system that facilitates improved traceability, quality and food safety, with additional parameters like oil content, seed size and free fatty acid, allowing for market segmentation and price differentiation according to quality.
    • Promotion of direct farmer-trader/company relations and a quality-based marketing system, which starts at field and spot market level. This would be feasible if ECX prices reflect world market prices. Joint investments in cleaning and storage facilities and management would be important in this context, as food safety is a major concern.
    • Tax exemption for locally produced edible oils (sesame, sunflower and others) and promotion of sesame-based consumer goods for the domestic market. In the current situation, imported palm oil is subsidized to make it accessible for the Ethiopian population, while locally produced oils are taxed. This hinders a transformation to Ethiopian production of edible oils.

Weather forecast for improved sesame farm management and yield loss reduction: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

Farmers in sesame production zone in Northwest Ethiopia have to deal with (increasingly) unpredictable weather conditions. And lack of weather forecast has been one of the major reasons for severe yield and post-harvest losses. Now, thanks to a pilot project, jointly run by National Metrological Agency (NMA), CommonSense and BENEFIT-SBN, they are able to reduce their risk of crop failure from heavy rainfalls or recurring dry spells by using accurate weather information via Short Message Service (SMS).

During the 2017 and 2018 cropping seasons, location-specific weather forecasting service was provided through weekly SMS messages informed more than 3,000 farmers and agriculture professionals about expected weather conditions. The farmers living area and production zones GPS coordinates were taken and the SMS was sent to registered farmers and professionals from 8338 number. It contained the next three days expectations in rainfall, temperature and wind, and was sent in local languages. ‘Training of trainers’ (ToT) training was organized to woreda and kebele agricultural experts and teachers (to incorporate in their daily lesson plan) on the meaning and interpretation of the forecast.

With the help of this weather information, sesame farmers and agricultural professionals were able to better plan their farm activities, to mitigate risks and increase resilience. They are making better decision regarding land preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting and related labour needs, and decide on post-harvest management activities to reduce yield losses. At the same time, weather forecasts were improved and fine-tuned, based on accuracy checking of forecasts and feedback from farmers.

Assessment conducted on delivery, understandability, accuracy and usefulness of the weather forecast SMS service pilot showed that such services can help develop sustainable and economically viable sesame value chain, improve sesame and rotation crops production and quality and reduce losses and risks. Field survey results confirmed that the weather forecast SMS service has significant effect on the performance of farmers’ farm activities, especially to avert risks related to weather conditions.

In addition to supporting farmers decision-making using weather information and agro-meteorology forecasts, the pilot institutional objectives were to evaluate the accuracy of the ECMWF model, to cross-fertilize the NMA and ECMWF models and to improve NMA services, both in terms of forecast reliability and reach to farmers. The weather forecasting service provided is based on the European Centre for Medium range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) model.

Key lessons learned and practical / institutional recommendations

1. It is important to deliver practical training and provide close follow-up to cascading training to agricultural professionals and farmers to ensure that the weather information in the SMS message is clearly understood. Even though the number has improved over the years, the assessment showed 13% of the sample farmers did not fully understand the text message properly.

2. Weather forecasts have to be in the local language. The date and period of the forecast, as well as the location for which it applies have to be clearly indicated.

3. To reach illiterate farmers (40% in the sesame zone), involvement of family members enrolled in education is important. Collaboration with schools and teachers providing and explaining weather information during lessons could improve the reach and understanding of weather forecast services.

4. Weather forecasting should start at the end of the dry season and continue until all crops are harvested and bagged, so that farmers benefit from weather information for all farming operations.

5. If possible, inclusion of seasonal forecasts can contribute to a better long term agricultural plan.

6. The provision of weather information has to be accompanied by the training on how to use it for farm management decisions. Weather forecast messages could be followed by messages indicating options for adapted farm management. This would require collaboration of the meteorological agency with agricultural research and extension. A call service that farmers could use for extra explanations would make the activity even more relevant. For example, using weather forecasts to protect cereals from rainfall damage by using plastic sheets for sesame stacking and drying. And for cereals, putting wood on top of sorghum and millet piles to protect them from the wind.

7. The only way for achieving sustainable results is through collaboration with institutions mandated for weather forecasting services, and ensuring continuous financing of weather forecast systems. Much attention has to be given to the testing of models with continuous feedback from the end users, and to modalities to reach out to (different categories) of farmers. Although a pilot may be largely based on project funding, modalities for sustainable funding are of fundamental importance. In the sesame zone, farmers, who have experienced the service, are ready to pay for the weather information. In the case of commercial commodities, like sesame, a levy system could also be an option. In addition, although the NMA was involved in the pilot and institutional objectives were clearly formulated, NMA recently decided that weather forecasts in Ethiopia should be based on the NMA model, even though the ECMWF model proved to be able to deliver precise, location-specific forecasts. This created an impasse, causing the interruption of services to farmers in the current season (2019).

Testimony

SBN weather forecast picMr. Gurshaw Yilma, a 33 year old sesame farmer who lives in Tegede woreda, North Gondar zone, Amhara region, has been using weather forecast text messages to plan his farm activities. Rainfall forecasts are most important to him. He said “The SMS message I received alerted me to do harvesting and threshing earlier as rain was expected. I usually have two permanent laborers who normally perform the threshing activity. This year, after I received the SMS that indicated a high chance of rain earlier than usual, I decided to hire six additional labours to finish the harvesting, stalked and threshing before the rain. I was able to reduce the risk of post-harvest losses (seed falling from the capsule) that could have happened because of unexpected heavy rain.”

In addition to this, following SMS message indicating very high chance of rain, Mr. Gurshaw covered his pile his harvested millet with a plastic sheets to prevent damage and his harvested forage that was left in the field to dry, to protect his animals from fungal disease.

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:

  1. limited knowledge on how mechanization contributes to productivity improvement;
  2. skill limitations in operating and maintaining machineries;
  3. lack of loan facilities for different farmer groups and absence of lease financing mechanism;
  4. under-developed machinery supply chain, with limitations of after sales services and spare parts; and
  5. under-used potential of machinery rental services.

Lessons learned 

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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, …).
  4. 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.
  5. 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

 

 

 

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

Background

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.