High Hopes for Somali Sesame Farmers

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Friday August 11, 2017 - 18:53:58 in Latest News by SomaliUpdate Staff Reporter
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    High Hopes for Somali Sesame Farmers

    MOGADISHU — Abdi watches the sesame harvested on his land while reflecting on the past season and how farming has changed over recent generations.

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Somali farmer Abdi harvests his sesame crop. | Photo courtesy.
MOGADISHU — Abdi watches the sesame harvested on his land while reflecting on the past season and how farming has changed over recent generations.
"I have been farming on this land for over 20 years, growing sesame, watermelon, maize and other vegetables,” he says as he supervises the harvest efforts at the end of another long, hard season in Middle Shebelle. He takes stock of his gains and losses.
 
Since May 2016, Growth, Enterprise, Employment and Livelihoods (GEEL), a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported 2,715 farmers to pilot test the cultivation of sesame on demonstration farms in 41 locations in Somalia, keenly monitoring and documenting their results. 
The farmers were trained in effective land preparation, cultivation, water management and harvesting methods.
"Farming has changed over the years, but for me what remains true is that it is not about personal benefit, but about the benefit to the country,” says Abdi. "Somalia has a lot of land that can be used for farming and production; we just have to come together and find the best way to do so.”
 
Abdi's primary crop this season is sesame, a vital component of Somalia’s export economy responsible for approximately $300 million of the country’s annual income. 
Although the civil war saw the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and the collapse of production of cash crops such as sesame, farmers like Abdi are working to revive the once flourishing agriculture industry, which is by far the most important sector in the country’s economy.
 
"The biggest change we made was in the way we grew the sesame,” says Abdi. "We used to till the land and then scatter the sesame seeds all over it. This time we ploughed the land, fertilized it and planted the sesame based on measurements on the land.”
The seeds grown in the demonstration plots produced 70 percent more sesame than those grown in other farms.
"This year the quality of the sesame seed was very high, with good weight and color,” says Abdi, with a renewed sense of optimism. "I was planning to leave my farm because it’s not easy suffering farming losses while supporting a family. This harvest changed my mind.”
 
While the recent droughts in Somalia significantly impacted sesame production, and thirty percent of the sesame cultivated in the demonstration plots was negatively affected, farmers like Abdi were better able to cope due to the introduction of new farming methods and connections to new markets through GEEL.
 
"Everyone has a role to play,” says Abdi about the interconnectedness of the agriculture sector. "It is not just farmers that are going to lead this change. It needs to be everyone - the farmers, suppliers, exporters, the government, and anyone else involved.”
 
While progress is being made to increase the productivity of land, there is still much to be done to improve the agri-food sector in Somalia. To become competitive players in domestic and international food trade, small and large-scale farmers need more opportunities to access markets to buy efficient technology and sell their harvests. To this end, GEEL supported the attendance of three sesame producers at the Gulfood Fair in Dubai and the Ethiopian Seeds and Pulses Association Workshop, which resulted in sales of 6,601 MT of sesame worth $7.6 million dollars.
 
"We met people from all over the world and discovered that there is a big market open to us,” says Mohamed, the director of one of the companies. "Our aim now is to produce good quality sesame to meet that demand.”

- Source: GEEL Somali


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