1. Background of the Study

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for more than 60% of Nigeria’s population (National Bureau of Statistics, 2007; Federal Ministry of Agriculture, 2010). In 2005, for instance, the sector gave employment to 46% of the population and contributed about 40% of GDP of the country (NBS, 2007; FMA, 2010). Of the four sub sectors of agriculture, crop subsector contributed 85% of GDP, while livestock contributed about 10%, fisheries about 4%and forestry 1% (Federal Republic of Nigeria,2006).Growth performance of agriculture is therefore largely driven by the performance of crop subsector on account of dominance (CBN, 2009; FAO, 2009).

Agricultural sector occupies a significant link in the food security and poverty alleviation. It employs more than 70% of the labour force, accounts for over 70% of non-oil export and most importantly provides over 80% of the food needs of the country (Adegboye, 2004). However, over the years there has been a marked decline in the performance of the sector. Nigeria, consequently, had to resort to large importation to cope with increasing demand for food (IITA, 1995). The value of non-oil imports rose steadily from N39.64 million to N599.30 million in 1990, then to N764.20 million, N1.72 billoin, N1.79 billion and N2.09 billion in the year 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 respectively (World Bank, 2005). Also, between 2007 and 2010, the Nigerian government spent a whopping sum of N98 trillion on food importation (Adesina, 2011).

 Inspite of laudable programmes by successive government in the past, significant volume of food is still imported annually and agricultural productivity has continued to remain low (Nweze, 2002). Nigeria, no doubt, has a landmass of 924,768 square kilometres and about 98 million hectares of land, with 74 million hectares of arable land (NPC, 2004).  It is further revealed that of this arable land, only about 30 million hectares are under cultivation. It then means that the arable land would need to be increased and managed so as to raise productivity (NPC, 2004). The small-scale famers who constitute about 85% of the farmers in Nigeria occupy the vertex in the hierarchy of players in food production and produced about 90% of food consumed in the country (FAO, 1999).

In recent times the major concern of the Federal Government of Nigeria is to be self-sufficient in food production, diversify its economic base as well as achieve a sustainable economic development. To this effect, efforts are being made to revitalize the agricultural sector. In 2002, a stakeholders’ summit aimed at evaluating the agricultural sector was held, at the end of which emphasis was placed on production of sesame among other crops with high export value (Iorlamen, 2011).

Sesame is an important crop to Nigerian agriculture. It is widely used within Nigeria and is an important component of Nigeria’s agricultural exports. In Africa, Nigeria ranks second to Sudan in production and export of sesame seed, which is rated second to cocoa in export volume. Sesame from Nigeria is exported to markets in North America, Europe and East Asia. Most of the commercialized part is bulked up and exported with minimal processing limited to drying and cleaning (Raw Materials Research and Development Council Survey, 2004).