Makurdi — sesame, otherwise known as beniseed one of the major cash crops that was popularly cultivated in Benue State particularly by the Tivs-disappeared, is staging a comeback.
Olam Nigeria Limited, the country's largest developer of cash crops including sesame, rice, cashew, sorghum, ginger and cocoa among other crops is currently spearheading the campaign. The good news is that farmers now have improved variety available which can yield more tonnage per hectare as a result of new farming technique.
The company, a subsidiary of Olam International Limited in Singapore, is partnering Nigeria Export Promotion Council, the Benue State government, Sesame Seeds Farmers Association and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in reviving the sesame cultivation through out growers programme in the state, which also covers others states including Jigawa, Nasarawa, Bauch, Katsina and Sokoto.
Olam's General Manager, Regi George told Daily Trust that the company has begun an out growers programme with 4,000 farmers to grow sesame in commercial quantity. George explained that the company had met with the MARKETS arm of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), First Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Cooperation (NAIC) and members of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN on the need to strengthen the partnership for the benefit of farmers.
The General Manager said the sesame programme had financial support from the bank, expressed optimism for the success of the programme during the year.
"We are looking at a situation where more farmers will go into sesame as they are going into rice under our programme", he said.
Daily Trust's investigation shows that the programme began in 2006 with the distribution of sesame seedlings which were developed by the company. 7,000 farmers in both Benue and Nasarawa states benefitted from the improved seedlings to increase the productivity of the cash crop.
The distribution covered 14 local government areas with Benue having eight and Nasarawa six. The former General Manager of Olam, Mr. Jaya Ram had announced in that a total of 3,000 Benue farmers covering Daudu, Kanshio and Apii areas of Makurdi, and Otukpo, Gboko, Guma, Vandeikya, Katsina-Ala and Gwer-East were beneficiaries. While in Nasarawa State, the beneficiary areas were Adudu, Kadarko, Doma, Maralaba, Gwagwalada, Asakio and Nasarawa with a total of 4,000 farmers.
The programme which began in 2006 with 1,500 farmers in Benue and 2,500 in Nasarawa was part of the agro-based company's corporate social responsibility programme.
Ram assured farmers that the company's partnership with Benue and Nasarawa State governments on agriculture and processing would continue to benefit them as long as they adhere to the instruction on the modern techniques for improved productivity. He said all the registered farmers would be trained under the company's out growers programme.
"The training session will attract resource persons who will take farmers on land use, plant management, harvest and post harvest handling", said the manager who added that a package of practice on cultivation and other issues is already being compiled to hand to them as guide.
The training programme which was conducted in 2007 in partnership with the Benue State Government, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Sesame Seeds Farmers of Benue State.
It drew participants from the beneficiary local government areas of the state including Makurdi, Guma-West, Gwer-East, Vandeikya, Buruku and Otukpo and officials of the state government and NEPC.
Benue agriculture commissioner, Benjamin Ashaver who attended the event was delighted on the renewed interest in farming activities in the state, and assured farmers of government commitment to assist farmers.
The Business Manager of Olam, Sworup Joshi said the programme is a sustained approach to improve productivity of the agricultural produce in the country. Farming Manager of the company Yogbal Velayutham said the sesame farming program has covered 3000 farmers in the state through the free distribution of improved seeds, training programs and package of practices and a direct buy back.
He said Nigeria has a great market potential for beniseed production for domestic and export markets noting that the production figures of the commodity has been on a steady increase since 1980, reaching 67000 MT by 1997 and was estimated to reach 139, 000 MT by the year 2010, according to the federal ministry of agriculture and natural resources.
The chairman of the state's Sesame Seeds Farmers Association, Mr. Mathias Iyoshase who spoke on behalf of farmers expressed gratitude to the company urging it to sustain the out growers programme.