RENEW Strategies

Back to The Source: Sesame

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Erin O'Connor
| May 4, 2017

Members of RENEW’s Impact Angel Network (IAN) and another U.S. investment group invested in a sesame company based in Ethiopia in September 2015. The investors anticipate that over the next five years, the company will support more than 10,000 small farmers, strengthen the sesame industry in Ethiopia, generate $32 million in export sales and create more than 60 jobs in the manufacturing sector. The investment, like others the IAN has made into small and medium enterprises in East Africa, is anticipated to have a significant impact in the local economy.

Why did we decide to enter the sesame sector? In less than a decade, Ethiopia jumped from being a minor producer of sesame to one of the top five sesame producers in the world. Currently, Ethiopia is the 4th largest exporter of sesame globally, and the 2nd largest exporter in the world markets. This export vies with gold and coffee for the largest revenue producing exports for Ethiopia. The country currently supplies 14% of the global market for raw seeds.

In Humera, a small town in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, sesame seeds are the main crop. The Humera Sesame Seeds are one of the most sought after sesame seed in the world due to its white color and favorable aroma. This area of Ethiopia provides the perfect conditions for growing the seed which is high in oil content, and contains an appetizing flavor. The secondary sesame seed produced within the country is known as the Welega Sesame, primarily harvested for its high oil content.

Sesame seeds are a very difficult crop to grow. They’re a tall, lanky plant that can grow between 20 and 60 inches in height. Once ripe, the capsules split open, revealing the seeds. This process coined the phrase “open sesame”. The plant is extremely sensitive due to its weight, and it requires significant manual labor in order to harvest it.

Most of the sesame seeds grown in Ethiopia are exported, and processed outside of the country. Because of this, Ethiopia is missing an opportunity to increase sesame revenues. Our new manufacturing plant, Ethiopian Sesame Co. will bring the value and process back into the country. This investment is anticipated to have a significant impact in the local economy.

RENEW is proud to be a part of the sesame value chain in Ethiopia.

(1) Ethiopia Agriculture Growth Program
(2) Sesame: Alternative Field Crops Manual
(4) The World's Best Sesame Seeds Come From Ethiopia

To find out more about RENEW or the IAN, contact us at, follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork. And be sure to check out our upcoming events, including our May 2017 IAN Members' Pipeline Call, September 2017 Econ-Tourism trip and October 2017 National Gathering.