The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), a Dutch non-governmental organization operating in the country, has engaged some 1,000 farmers in two districts in the Northern Region to cultivate sesame as a cash crop as part of the Sesame Value Chain Project.
Sesame is a cash crop with high nutritional value, which could be used to produce oil and cake for consumption and also has a huge international market and in Ghana it is mostly cultivated in the three northern regions mostly for household consumption.
To ensure that farmers adopt the best agricultural practices to improve productivity, demonstration fields have been organized to show to farmers the processes and steps they have to follow to increase production.
It is also part of efforts at ensuring that the wider society understands the concept, principles and practices of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for sesame production, field days were organized to demonstrate to participants the steps and processes that had been adopted in the demonstration fields.
Mr Issahaku Zakaria, Sesame Project Manager of the SNV, told the GNA in Tamale on Monday after field demonstrations in Yeteli and Mishio in the Chereponi and West Mamprusi districts that the aim was to sensitize farmers about the economic advantage of the crop and to woo more farmers to take advantage of it to improve their economic fortunes.
He said “The sesame demonstrations that have been rolled out will be of no use if the larger society do not have the opportunity to participate and learn, after all the lead farmers and partners are being used as conduit to reaching out to the larger society. The field day is therefore an opportunity for farmers to learn by seeing the performance of recommended practices adopted by the demonstration plots and other successful farmers”.
“What we are seeing today is a sign of commitment by all the partners that sesame is an important cash crop and if produced at efficient levels can drastically reduce poverty in northern Ghana. We have a comparative advantage since all the factors necessary for sesame production are right here in northern Ghana”, he said.
He said the organization was providing inputs such as seed, land preparation and provides technical support to the farmers to ensure that they improve productivity and produce quality products for the market and that some 10,000 farmers were going to be supported during next year farming season.
Mr Zakaria said the crop had similar economic advantage like any other cash crop such as cocoa and that it intended using innovative technologies and improved seeds to target smallholder rural poor farmers to increase their incomes and nutritional values.
He said the sesame seeds and meals were high in calcium, phosphorus and iron and well supplied with the vitamin thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, adding that the whole plant is an important ingredient for the preparation of aphrodisiac and that the leaf is used as a remedy for bronchial trouble.
Mr Yussif Amankwa, Branch Operation Manager of Edible Nuts of Olam Ghana, said the company was ready to buy any quantity of the crop farmers would produce this year.
He assured the farmers of the best price for their produce and advised them to adhere to quality standards since the company would not compromise on quality assurance.
Mr Abdul-Halim Abubakari, a Lecturer at the Horticultural Department of the University for Development Studies (UDS), said due to the economic advantage of the crop, it had adopted it for field studies for students.
He suggested that the cluster-value-chain approach should be adopted to obtain good productivity levels by farmers.
The occasion which was supervised by the MOFA District Director for Chereponi, Mr Charles Akangua, expressed the readiness of MOFA to support providing extension services.
Officials from the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) and the Northern Rural Growth Project (NRGP) also took part in the field day which also attracted hundreds of people including farmers, processors, academicians, researchers and traditional authority.
After the field days most of the farmers expressed optimism that they were going to gain positively from their investments.