Sesame seed growth for export set for Rushinga
Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa
Sesame seed, one of the oldest oilseed crops with one of the highest oil contents of any seed is set to become the country’s newest foreign currency as research in the perennially dry Rushinga District has shown that the crop can be grown commercially.
The Bureau of Economic and Social Research (BESE) through ZimTrade has engaged the government food and nutrition committee and farmers in the Rushinga district to foster and officially establish the farming of the seed which has a growing market in China, Japan, and Australia where they use the seed to make body lotions, hair products and cooking oil.
In pursuit of the devolution agenda, BESE and ZimTrade carried out research in all of Mashonaland Central’s seven districts and Rushinga was considered the most profitable to farm sesame seed. The choice was no accident as it is in line with exploiting indigenous knowledge systems as there are farmers already growing the crop which thrives in the climatic and soil conditions that support no other crop. The crop, called a survivor crop has the ability to grow in areas that do not support the growth of other crops and needs little farming support and can be grown by subsistence farmers in dry areas.
This dovetails with the “leaving no one and no place behind” mantra of President ED Mnangagwa and benefits local farmers in line with the National Export Strategy that feeds into the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and Vision 2030. Eight wards with two farmers each were chosen to kick-start the export growth project.
Currently, while farmers are growing it in Rushinga, seed crop is not in abundance to meet the growing demand for the crop. It is also susceptible to pest attacks as farmers have limited funds for pest control. The lack of a local market for the plant has discouraged the adoption of the plant by many. Those farmers who grow it are relying on neighbouring Mozambique where they are exploited. Lack of plant and machinery have also hampered production on a large scale and pushed production costs to as high as USD125 per hectare affecting the market price and return for farmers.
Opportunities lie in value addition as selling as seed is costing the country an opportunity to earn foreign currency. ZimTrade has come in to assist with alternative markets other than Mozambique through the use of media to reach and attract international interest for the Rushinga Sesame seed growth program.
Four cluster systems were established to assist farmers in growing the sesame seed. The clusters will help farmers access loans from banks, knowledge from universities through research, and even Non-Governmental Organisation support. The clusters include a Corporate Cluster for pooling resources together and price bargaining. The Value Chain Integration Model where farmers, processors, and exporters are all put together for a common good to bridge bureaucratic red tape. Finally, the Market Orientated Model helps farmers access markets through analysis, research, and standards to follow when exporting.
The farmers were further encouraged to form sub-committees and have a champion farmer in each ward. These sub-committees would include quality control, marketing and trade, logistics, transport and warehousing, production and value addition, and field school. The benefits of clusters and subcommittees include networking, sharing resources and knowledge, and getting support in accessing domestic and international markets.
To highlight the advantages of the cluster system and encourage their adoption, ZimTrade shared success stories of cluster systems citing the Mbire Sesame Seed Export cluster, Mwenezi Marula Export cluster and Honde Valley Banana Export cluster.