Ethiopia sesame alert

Ethiopia sesame sector assessment

Sesame Alerts identify current challenges and outline urgent action needed in the Ethiopian sesame sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders.

Below, please find the most recent sesame alert for Ethiopia with key actions defined. You can also download the complete assessment.


Rapid assessments are conducted through survey and focus group discussions (FGDs). In its approach the rapid assessments are inspired by the sector model developed by AidEnvironment. Read more about the methodology on our page 'Rapid assessments: methodology'.

Sesame sector assessment - September 2020

Below, please find the most recent (September 2020) sesame alert for Ethiopia with key actions defined. You can also download the complete assessment.

Read the full assessment (PDF)

Sesame sector assessment - May 2020

Alert 1: Reduced area of sesame cultivation affects future export revenues

The impact

  • Farmers, both smallholders and investors, are dissatisfied with the profitability of sesame production in the previous season, because of higher production costs and lower market prices
  • Stakeholders fear that the pandemic will amplify this trend, resulting in further restrictions in mobility, increases in transport and labour costs, disruptions of trade channels, decline in international demand, and a fall in prices
  • A significant reduction in the area planted with sesame, and in the quantity and quality harvested, is anticipated (survey: 96% and 95% )
  • Investor farmers expect labour shortages (survey: 98%); they are already facing 30-50 % higher labour costs than in 2019
  • Agricultural professionals and authorities advise farmers to grow food crops (e.g. sorghum and pulses)
  • Operations of spot markets and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), including their prices, are expected to be negatively affected (survey: 90%)
  • Sesame export revenues and foreign currency earnings are expected to decline (survey: 70%)

Actions required

  • Monitor land preparation activities, as they are the first indication of the area of cultivation expected
  • Develop a consolidated overview of planted areas and crops, both of smallholder farmers and investor farmers
  • Prioritize support to smallholder farmers for sesame production as they are based on family labour
  • Estimate labour demand for investor farmers
  • Support investor farmers with the optimal production plan that is possible under COVID-19 conditions, taking into account security of the investor zone, availability of machinery, and availability of permanent or full-season labourers
  • Promote and facilitate the use of cultivators and harvesters to compensate labour shortages
  • Promote proactive action for increasing the availability of machinery and rental services for peak field activities

Alert 2: Availability of labour and welfare of labourers are of major concern

The impact

  • Mobility restrictions and higher transport costs result in labour shortages in the sesame production zones (survey: 98%)
  • Mandatory quarantine periods for labourers returning from Sudan, or entering the sesame zone in Tigray region, affect the availability of labour
  • The incidence of confirmed cases of COVID-19 spreads fear among labourers of working in sesame zones
  • Many young people (students and migrants), as well as previously displaced farmers, returned to their rural homes, providing an alternative source of labour in the sesame zones
  • Food and nutrition insecurity push poor labourers into migrating to the sesame zones (survey: 90%)
  • The steep increase in transportation costs discourages labourers from undertaking the journey to the sesame zones
  • Current working and living conditions of labourers are poor and not in line with prevailing labour laws and regulations; they are not COVID-19 proof in relation to food, hygiene, dormitories and transportation arrangements
  • Wages are expected to increase because of labour shortages and higher food and transport costs, leading to a decrease in demand for labour
  • Credit shortages of producers combined with increased wages jeopardize the payment of wages
  • The COVID-19 crisis is anticipated to severely impact the income and food expenditures of labourers, who are among the most marginal social classes (survey: 100%)

Actions required

  • Raise levels of awareness on the COVID-19 pandemic and enforce required social distancing and hygiene regulations
  • Explain and enforce prevailing labour laws and regulations that apply to investor farmers (appropriate shelter, clean water, food, mini-clinics), and urge them to take appropriate measures to secure the safety of labourers, especially in relation to social distancing (housing, transport to and from the fields)
  • Make a timely and precise estimation of the demand for labour based on the cultivated area and crops concerned, and develop locally specific plans to match labour demand and supply
  • Reduce labour movements by hiring permanent labourers (Salug), using alternative resident labour sources and promoting seasonal labourers to work at the same farm
  • Take appropriate measures to support labourers returning from Sudan
  • Start an early campaign to mobilize labourers for the main weeding and harvesting periods, wherever this is possible and in a responsible way, making use of established patterns of movement and informal communication mechanisms
  • Coordinate labour movements during the peak time of the season and facilitate safe transportation services for labourers, at reasonable costs, e.g. limiting the number of passengers and ensuring masks are worn in buses
  • Facilitate access to credit and fair interest rates to support farmers, with timely payments of labour wages

Alert 3: Mobility restrictions hamper input delivery and extension services

The impact

  • Mobility restrictions and reduced communication negatively impact the coordinated and timely delivery of seed and farm inputs to producers
  • As an alternative to labour, the demand for weed control chemicals for sorghum increases
  • Normal extension services, such as training sessions for newly recruited development agents (DAs), mobilization meetings, and training and demonstration sessions for farmers, are not possible as a result of mobility restrictions (survey: 97%)
  • Instead of group mobilization, DAs move from farm to farm to provide advisory services, reducing the reach of extension services
  • Some farmers are not willing to meet DAs because they are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 infection

Actions required

  • Facilitate and ensure adherence to social distancing and hygiene measures among those involved in the distribution of inputs and the provision of extension services
  • Increase availability of quality seed and other inputs
  • Disseminate weather forecast information through mobile phones to a broad audience, so as to optimize field operations and reduce risks and costs
  • Disseminate sector information through mobile phones using the free 8028 farmer hotline
  • Use radio and television programmes to share information and provide extension messages
  • Distribute existing training materials and posters on good agricultural practices, and on pest and disease management, to kebeles and cooperatives
  • Restart training and demonstration activities for small groups of farmers, when this is possible according to official guidelines
  • Consider using the cluster approach to organize farmers at field level, so as to reduce the movement and increase the efficiency of DAs
  • Consider engaging university students to support extension and advisory services that make use of information and communication technologies

Alert 4: Increased production costs result in a more acute need for credit

The impact

  • Production costs are rapidly increasing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis (survey: 95%)
  • Access to input credit is negatively impacted in terms of quantity and cost (survey: 90%)
  • Financial institutions predict a high risk of defaulting farmer-borrowers
  • More restricted access to finance and more demanding loan procedures will lead to a decline in production
  • Shortage of cash is a fertile ground for the activities of informal money lenders
  • Unions and cooperatives anticipate more difficulties in accessing marketing credit (survey: 64%)
  • In addition to the COVID-19 impact, new rules of the Ministry of Finance regarding the withdrawal of money are expected to create problems for labour payments by investor farmers

Actions required

  • Request the National Bank of Ethiopia to provide financial support, considering the importance of the sector for export revenues
  • Encourage the regional government to provide funds for the Dedebit Credit and Savings Institution (DECSI) in Tigray region and the Amhara Credit and Savings Institution (ACSI), for loans to smallholders
  • Encourage commercial banks to provide merchandising loans to cooperatives and unions
  • Share experiences on risk sharing, guarantee funds and collateral modalities with governments and international partners to support private banks with financing unions and cooperatives
  • Promote the use of collateral and cash-based guarantees among farmers’ organizations
  • Take proactive action to develop contract farming modalities