A familiar catchphrase, "open sesame!", is not just a pure magical incantation. Sesame (Sesamum indicum), particualrly its seeds, is considered a nutritional goldmine. It is rich in minerals and has two proteins that are not normally found in other vegetable proteins. It can even be an alternative source of calcium for those people with allergies to milk.
But there's another explanation to the incantation "open sesame' as the phrase is also being used to show the distinguishing characteristic of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.
Sesame is quite popular in other parts of the globe but not in the Philippines wherein corn, rice, and coconut are the most common cultivated agricultural crops.
Aside from being the oldest seed known to man, sesame is also one of the first condiments and crops processed for oil.
In the province of Camarines Sur, specifically in the municipality of Nabua, farmers in Brgy. Topas and Brgy. La Purisima are planting sesame after corn, upland rice, legumes, and other upland crops. The plant serves as an alternative cash crop and intercrop to coconut, fruit trees, and banana.
The Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) through the leadership of Dr. Elena delos Santos, conducted a Participatory Rural appraisal (PRA) on these two sites and found that most of the farmers in the identified areas have low income and low production.
The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), being committed to enhance the productivity and profitability of smallhold agriculture, acknowledges and supports the endeavor of BIARC to help the farmers by coming up with sustainable and adoptable technologies and strategies to increase their yield and income. Hence, a Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) project was established titled "CPAR on the Enhancement of Sesame-based Farming System in the 4th District of Camarines Sur".
The CPAR project is divided into three components which are anchored on the three aspects of community-based agriculture, namely: technology evaluation and utilization, farmers' skills enhancement, and institution development.
As farmer-cooperators of the CPAR project, they will be provided with high-yielding sesame seeds and will be trained on the various interventions and package of technology (POT) on sesame production.
As an output of the project, various products and by-products from sesame will also be developed as part of the value-adding technologies. Trainings will be conducted to enhance the skills and capabilities of the farmers who are involved in the project. The CPAR project will also serve as an active link between the community and the market and credit facilities. ### (Amavel A. Velasco)