24 July, 2013

Quality co-operation helps transform Ethiopian agriculture

By Global Partnership

Hurgessa Gutema owns a small farm in Wolisso, central Ethiopia.

With help from the local co-operative, his crop yield rises year on year.

‘Thanks to better seeds and fertilizer from the farmers union, we harvest up to 20 quintals for every half-hectare. We used to get only three or four’.

More crops have brought more cash for his family.

‘I need four quintals to cover my overheads. I use the rest to support my family, including educating my children’.

Ethiopia is in the midst of important agricultural shifts that are changing the way smallholder farmers do business. A new organization – the Agricultural Transformation Agency – is bringing in modern planting practices, improving marketing techniques, and revolutionizing the strength in numbers of Ethiopia’s 12.8 million smallholder farmers.

‘We’re working to make sure farmers associations around the country function as commercial businesses, rather than just social organizations’ said Khalid Bomba, Head of the new Agency.

‘Ultimately they have to be financially viable ’.

Local farmers associations provide better seeds, fertilizer and training. They also help broker crucial links for small farmers to get their goods to markets.

The Agricultural Transformation Agency also looks at the big picture to ensure food security for the long term.

‘There is no silver bullet, no magic solution. We have to look at the system in a holistic way and work to strengthen our partners in the agricultural sector’ Bomba said. ‘From the public sector and research institutions, to the private sector and NGO’s.’

With support from UNDP and a range of partners, the Agency began work in 2011. The aim is to hand it over to the Government within 15 years.

‘It’s early days. Transformation won’t come quickly’ said Haddis Tadesse, Country Director of the Gates Foundation, a supporter of the Agency. ‘Despite this, early indicators show very positive, and in some cases very impressive, results’.

The impact of new planting practices for Tef, used to make injera, a soft bread and staple Ethiopian food, is a case in point.

‘We introduced a new way of planting Tef that reduces the seeding rate and introduces new varieties’ said the ATA Chief. ‘This boosted yields by a minimum of 30% and in some cases over 100%’. 

‘Having started with just two farmers, this year we’re moving up to two million.’

Working well together

The Agency supports coordination efforts led by the Ministry of Agriculture, by liaising with donor Governments interested in working in specific regions or businesses seeking to invest in sections of the agricultural system.

‘The biggest value add that we bring is supporting effective coordination, minimizing duplication and ensuring that no major gaps in the system exist so resources are much more efficiently utilised’ ATA chief Bomba said.

Stephen Sandiford, Head of food security and agricultural growth at the Canadian Embassy said ‘Donors coordinate primarily through the ATA’s established donor partnership. We all come together two or three times a year’.

Canada supports the development of the farmers co-operatives and the ATA’s work in linking farmers to markets through UNDP.

Other supporters include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the Nike and Rockefeller Foundations, USAID, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, the Synergos Institute, The Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, Feed the Future, UNDP and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Effective host Government led co-ordination like this is a core principle of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation that helps Governments, business and organisations work better together to end poverty and was conceived at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011.

The groups Steering Committee is meeting in Ethiopia’s capital Addis-Ababa this week to review global progress in making development co-operation more effective and plan for its first Ministerial-level meeting in early 2014.

UNDP and the OECD provide a joint-support team for the Partnership. 

Phenomenal gains

Ethiopia is booming.

With average annual growth rates of 10% and what UNDP’s Resident Representative Eugene Owusu calls ‘phenomenal’ poverty reduction rates, down from 40% in 2005 to 29% in 2012, Ethiopia has no shortage of interested investors.

The Agricultural Transformation Agency’s new Public-Private Partnerships Division is helping the Government co-ordinate its response. It began work in early 2013.

‘I spent 15 years on Wall Street’ said Yohannes Tilahun, Chief of the new Department. ‘My vision is that we have a unified, systematic response to all international investors interested in agriculture in Ethiopia’.

Tilahun’s team also links farmers and their unions to big international buyers.

‘We work with foreign investors, we tell them what the landscapes are like and what the farmers needs are’ Tilahun said.

ATA Chief Bomba is confident investors will keep lining up in future.

‘Many private sector partners, both domestic and international see the opportunities to create value here in Ethiopia. For us, its exciting as it creates a pull for the smallholder farmers, but also jobs and opportunities for other sectors of the economy.’

Eugene Owusu, UNDP’s Resident Representative believes the work of the ATA and the Ministry of Agriculture will play key roles in Ethiopia’s long-term development strategy.

‘Ethiopia is aiming for agriculture led industrial transformation. Now we’re exporting raw materials, but the intention is to invest in establishing the industrial infrastructure to produce finished products that will add value for export.’

And as for Hurgessa in Wolisso, he’s saving for the future.

‘My plan is to change from farmer to merchant. I’ll supply a whole range of grains to market’.


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DISCLAIMER: This blog is a forum for sharing the diverse views of its varied contributors on important and emerging issues of Effective Development Co-operation. The posts do not necessarily reflect the view of the Global Partnership, its Co-Chairs, Steering Committee members, or of the joint UNDP/OECD support team.