Social business seeks to boost
100,000 sesame-farming households
15 Nov 2019
Proximity Designs, a social enterprise and one of Myanmar’s largest providers of agricultural products and services, aims its service to reach 100,000 sesame-farming households in the next three years. The social enterprise announced this during the launch of its research paper titled When It Rains, It Pours: Challenges and Opportunities in Myanmar’s Sesame Value Chain. The research paper provides a panoramic view of the sesame ecosystem in Myanmar, with a deep dive from the perspective of small farmers, and offers tangible opportunities to address the challenges they face, said Proximity Designs General Manager for Farm Advisory Services Daw Phyu Hninn Nyein. "The research paper provides the opportunity to address problem areas identified around farming, distribution and refinement of sesame, which will enable us to test, and launch new products and services specifically tailored to sesame farmers. Thanks to the research paper, Proximity Designs aims to reach 100,000 sesame-farming households in the next three years,” Daw Phyu Hninn Nyein said.
Known as the forgotten crop for its tendency to be overshadowed by the more established rice, sesame is grown in Myanmar’s central Dry Zone by an estimated 500,000 farmers. Myanmar is also one of the top exporters of sesame in the world, with even greater export potential, but many factors threaten the livelihood of sesame farmers, such as climate change, labour shortages, pests and diseases. "Even though sesame is the second-largest staple crop in Myanmar, the thousands of farmers who grow this crop have been poorly served for many years. Last year, we decided to start addressing some of these unmet needs, and considering the rapidly changing rural landscape of Myanmar, we set out to gain a much deeper understanding of sesame farming,” said Jim Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Proximity Designs.
Eight weeks of research was conducted in Myanmar’s main sesame growing areas by a team of 10 design researchers, seven from Proximity’s own team and three from world-renowned design firm Studio D Radiodurans. Using a design research approach, the team sought to deliver a deep, human understanding of the problems sesame farmers face and opportunities to overcome them. "We hope other stakeholders are inspired to join us in supporting the sesame ecosystem. In Myanmar, we have a saying, ‘You cannot make oil with just one sesame seed.’ The more organiaations that work to meaningfully meet the needs of sesame farmers, the more impact we can create together.” Daw Phyu Hninn Nyein said. Over the past 15 years, Proximity Designs has invested heavily in building an understanding of Myanmar’s agricultural sector and smallholder farmers.