Ethiopia’s Sesame Sector

The contribution of different farming models to poverty alleviation, climate resilience and women’s empowerment

Publication date: 21 July 2011
Author: Genia Kostka and Jenny Scharrer, independent consultants

Oxfam commissioned this research to assess the contribution of different agricultural business models to poverty alleviation, livelihood security, climate resilience, and empowerment of women in the sesame sector in Metekel and Assosa in Benishangul Gumuz, Ethiopia.

The key findings of the report are that sesame is a suitable crop for poverty alleviation for smallholders in Benishangul Gumuz and that the smallholder model is competitive versus the large-scale investor model in terms of productivity. With minimal expenditure for sesame seeds and some simple equipment for ploughing, weeding and harvesting, farmers can cultivate sesame on a family labor basis. Potential income is higher in the smallholder model than from either communal land management, or from the salaries from working for large-scale investors. Smallholders can improve their income and security further through membership of primary production co-operatives that offer higher sales prices and paid-out dividends.

Women are marginalized in sesame cultivation as they are excluded from the sales process and expected to manage household labor, thus facing a double work burden. Working as daily laborers on large-scale farms is particularly disadvantageous for women. The smallholder model is more suitable for women since it allows them to manage their double workload burden according to their needs.

Key recommendations from the report:

Mitigating the risks to smallholders’ livelihood security requires efforts from all stakeholders.

  • Farmers need good farming practices and can strengthen their position by forming primary cooperatives and actively engage in micro-saving-plans offered by government.
  • Primary cooperatives can support farmers by offering a 2–5% price premium for sesame compared with prices quoted by local traders. Profits made by cooperatives through reselling sesame at higher prices can be paid back to farmers in the form of dividends. And primary cooperatives can use their reserves for hardship loans for farmers, communal investments, or back-up savings.
  • Government agricultural bureaus and research centers need to improve information dissemination on changes in climatic conditions and research on seed varieties tailored to specific requirements of different areas respectively.