The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Queen Gaf Enterprise, Mrs. Gafaratu Fuseini, has urged smallholder farmers in the Northern Region to venture into the cultivation of sesame to enable them create wealth and food security for their families.
Speaking in an interview with Savannahnews during SNV Ghana sesame project field day celebration at Chereponi in the Chereponi District, she maintained that sesame has a lot of health benefits and economic prospects that could improve the living conditions of most farmers if they decided to engage in the cultivation of crop.
The Tamale based business woman, said sesame could be eaten raw after harvesting, used to make snacks, produce oil as well as beverages. “Sesame oil is safer and cholesterol-free as compared to other cooking oils......and there is high demand for this product, both locally and internationally”.
Sesame seeds are derived from an unremarkable plant of the Sesamum genus and bears, the scientific name of Sesamum indicum. Sesame seeds are considered the oldest oilseed crop in the world, and have been intentionally cultivated for more than 3,500 years. Evidence of their native forms are both in Africa and in India, places where they are still widely cultivated. It is extremely resilient, and grows in places where many other crops fail, which is why it was so heavily relied on throughout the ages.
Sesame seeds are extremely beneficial for health, but are often overlooked, and they include the ability to prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, prevent a wide variety of cancers, build strong bones, protect against radiation, increase heart health, help cure sleep disorders, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, boost respiratory health, strengthen your oral health, aid in healthy growth, improve circulation, detoxify the body, and eliminate depression and chronic stress.
The many health benefits of sesame seeds are due to its nutritional content, including vitamins, minerals, natural oils, and organic compounds which consist of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fibre, thiamine, vitamin B6, foliate, protein, and tryptophan. The wide range of health benefits are explained in greater detail below.
Although it is a seed, it can still bother people with nut allergies, and it has a distinctly nutty flavour. Many of the health benefits are derived from the oils, which are found in higher concentrations in sesame seeds that in any other oilseed crop in the world.
In 2013, the Netherlands Development Organisation, SNV– took a bold decision as the first organisation to promote commercial sesame production in Ghana, specifically in the Chereponi area.
The decision was based on the fact that most crop farmers had remained poor due to limited opportunities that exist in the area, and also because of the fact that the climatic conditions were no more favourable as before to ensure the productivity of farmers.
According to SNV Project Manager Zakaria Isaahaku, the organisation did a critical analysis of the socio-cultural and environmental factors and found that the prevailing factors at the time highly favoured the production of sesame but was neglected because of many factors including unavailability of market to sell after production.
The objectives of the project, he explained, sought to improve the yield or productivity of sesame; improve post-harvest management and processing; increase acreage under sesame cultivation; and improve market access for sesame producers.
Mr. Isaahaku stated that, within three years of intervention, the project has achieved modest but significant gains. “Within the period, quality seeds have developed and farmers are using them and local processing of sesame for household consumption has been tremendously promoted”, he emphasised.
He further explained that, post-harvest losses had also been reduced through training and use of tarpaulins for drying whereas profitable markets had been secured for farmers to sell their produce after harvesting.
“With a modest start of 1,000 acres in 2013 just in 2 districts, Chereponi and West Mamprusi–the project has grown in leaps and bounds to over 12,000 acres in about 7 districts. From less than 200 metric tonnes in 2013, total yields have increased to 5,000 metric tonnes in 2015 up from 980 metric tonnes in 2014. This season, farmers would be getting a direct income of over GH¢11,200.00”, he mentioned.
He called on the District Chief Executive for Chereponi Mary Nakobo to consider supporting women in the area with funding to go into the cultivation of sesame. He also urged buyers and producers to be honest and transparent in their relationship with farmers in order to ensure that the project is sustainable even after SNV pulls out.