Lessons Learned from the Action Research Process in the Project Transaction Risks in The

Lessons Learned from the Action Research Process in the Project Transaction Risks in The

Lessons learned from the action research process in the project “Transaction risks in the sesame value chain”

Gerdien Meijerink | May 2009

Some background on the project and process

The project focuses on the transaction costs and risks in the sesame value chain and investigates how (which mechanism) these can be reduced to improve the functioning of the value chain. Transaction risks include lack of information (on quality, standards, price) poor quality of sesame (through the chain sand and husks are mixed in with the sesame to increase weight) etc.The process includes a wide array of actors, including NGOs (SNV, which is active in value chains and part of the “Learning Alliance”), research organizations (WUR and the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research), private sector (sesame exporters) and the Public-Private Partnership on Oilseeds (which is supported by DGIS) with EPOSPEA ( Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds, Spices Producers Exporters Association).

Lessons learned

The first lesson learned is that action research constitutes a dialogue between researchers and “practitioners” (in our case mostly the private sector involved in sesame trade, which includes farmers and producers’ organization). A true dialogue means that both parties have something to offer. Practitioners bring the everydaypractical realities and difficulties they face every day, and they signal new opportunities and trends. Researchers bring new and more extensive information, either in scope (information from remote places, information gathered on a large scale) or in depth (detailed analysis) that the practitioners do not have and that is difficult to come by. However, a second lesson is that a true dialogue also means that both parties are interested in what the other has to offer, and that they (especially researchers) listen carefully.The project has achieved this by holding a series of learning workshops combined various studies.

The project started by engaging the “practitioners” by presenting a quick scan of the sesame value chain, which included various interviews with practitioners. The quick scan had revealed that transaction risks were the biggest problem, and during the first learning workshop this was enthusiastically supported by the practitioners. The first learning workshop also resulted in identifying Contract Farming and the new Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) as interesting mechanisms that could reduce these transaction risks. But how to introduce contract farming in sesame, the practitioners wanted to know. And what exactly will the effects be of the ECX? The PPP Oilseeds also wanted to have more general information about sesame production and the various transaction risks and costs in the sesame chain. The dialogue was underway.

The Ethiopian sesame sector is extremely dynamic and new developments unfold every week. The action research team (SNV, WUR, EIAR and FFarm, an Ethiopian consultancy focused on farmers) is following these new developments, maintaining an active dialogue with the practitioners, feeding them with relevant information and thus contributing to the developments as they unfold. Another lesson therefore is that especially in times of rapid change, relevant and timely information and analyses are important. Action research has become action + research + enthusiasm!