Amhara region SBN annual workshop held

The third Amhara region Sesame Business Network (SBN) stakeholders’ annual workshop was held on Saturday the 28th of November 2015 at Bahir Dar.

The regional workshop was held with the objective of reviewing implementation and results of sesame business cluster activities, with emphasis on roll-out of ‘20 Steps’ in 2015. It was also aimed at analysing overall challenges and opportunities of the network. 60 participants drawn from farmers’ cooperatives, woreda offices of agriculture, zone agriculture department, cooperative promotion agency, Amhara Agricultural Research Institute (ARAI)/ Gondar Agricultural Research Center (GARC), investor farmers attended the workshop.

The workshop was opened by Dr. Birru Yitaferu’s, director general of ARARI speech. In his opening speech, Dr. Birru stated that the use of improved technologies in the sesame production and marketing is almost the order of the day. He added that GARC together with the SBN Support Programme and other partners is playing significant role in improving the sesame production. He also appreciated the SBN Support Programme and the source of funding- the Netherlands government for supporting the country in its effort to achieve its strategic plan.

Next, Dr. Geremew Terefe, SBN Support Programme national coordinator, presented the overall activities that have been done by the SBN and its Support Programme in the last three years (2013-2015). Dr. Geremew’s presentation highlighted the results under the five main economic objectives, namely productivity and quality improvement; harvest, transport and storage loss reduction; credit cost reduction; post-harvest value creation and market linkage and sales.

Following Dr. Geremew’s presentation, the five woreda representatives presented the activities and results of the ’20 Steps’ scaling out of the 2015 production season. Woreda representatives presented about woreda profiles, production guide and manual distributions, number of trainings organised, activities done in the demonstration plots in model farmers plots and farmer training centres, input distributions, number of crop rotation trials, field days organised, average yield of demonstration plots and challenges encountered. They also presented their woreda’s future plan.

Focal persons presented the maximum and minimum yields gained from the demonstration plots conducted in farmer training centers (FTCs) and model farmers’ plots. The maximum yield is 11.5 quintal/hectare from a model farmers plot in Quara. In some exceptional cases the minimum yield is less than 1 quintal/hectare for example in Tegede. According to the focal persons, shortage of rainfall in many places (demonstration places were reseed due to shortage of rain); problem of rainfall distribution; pest and disease infestation and unavailability of chemicals; occurrence of heavy rain and wind during harvesting and drying time; reluctance of some development agents to following up FTCs; farmers failure to implement all the recommended ‘20 Steps’ especially thinning; failure to register on logbooks etc. are among the main challenges which affect the demonstration activities.

In the afternoon participants of the workshop sat in three different groups and discussed on what can be done to improve the quality of sesame at different levels; how can the scaling up of the ‘20 Steps’ be done through cooperatives and what can be done concerning value addition. After thorough group discussions participants suggested the following points:

To improve quality

  • Farmers should follow the ‘20 Steps’ efficiently. Offices of agriculture, the research centre and farmers’ organisaions should work jointly to improve the agronomic practice; they should improve storage facilities and/or systems. They should also give attention to pre and post-harvest handling management
  • Offices of agriculture and research centres need to select quality sesame varieties which meets the required standard like white colour with the expected amount of oil content through research and scale out these varieties; they also need to provide support and follow up the overall production activities;
  • There should be a better quality controlling system in all spot markets. Cooperatives, unions and spot market traders need to have quality controlling systems; awarding those who produce quality products;
  • Government and other concerned bodies should work to improve transportation systems;
  • Improved harvesting and threshing technologies need to be introduced to farmers;
  • All stakeholders especially farmers cooperatives, unions and ECX should work jointly to improve the marketing practice;
  • Projects like SBN Support Programme should support in building the capacity of farmers, managers of primary cooperatives and traders in spot markets;
  • Traders should work for the quality while they are buying, storing, bagging
  • Organisations like seed quality control need to do their works properly

Scaling up of the 20 steps through cooperatives

  • Primary cooperative need to provide training for their farmers members in ‘20 steps’
  • They can produce leaflets, organise discussion sessions and create awareness
  • They need to reward their members who strictly employ all the ‘20 Steps’
  • Working jointly with Offices of agriculture and Amhara Credit and Saving Institution

Value addition

  • Starting using already planted cleaning machines
  • Searching for projects that can arrange matching funds
  • Encouraging farmers to be members of cooperatives so that the cooperatives will have the capita to invest in some value addition activities
  • Planting oil pressing machine and encouraging farmers to produce quality product as an input
  • Working with investor farmers so that they can invest in value addition activities
  • Unions and cooperatives collect their members produce and process the sesame for better income

The workshop was finally closed by Mr. Yeshetla Merene’s closing remark. Mr. Yeshetla appreciated the SBN Support Programme for organising a platform so that participants can have such a fruitful discussion. He stated; “the SBN Support programme is one of the successful programmes in scaling out improved technologies at field level. Together with the programme, we have gone a long way in improving the production and productivity of sesame.” He added; “it is very good that the Support Programme will have a second phase with the focus on marketing and value addition.” He finally remained participants that they should work hard for the coming years and thanked participants for participating in the Amhara region annual SBN workshop.

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By Sesame Business Network, Gondar-Ethiopia