The ATA’s Role Within the Transformation Agenda

The ATA and the Transformation Agenda concept grew out of a two-year extensive diagnostic study of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector, led by the Ministry of Agriculture and facilitated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study examined how Ethiopia could replicate the agricultural transformation seen in many Asian countries during their first phase of development.

The ATA’s “Value Add”

The ATA was not created to replace existing agricultural actors and interventions, but rather to enhance the capacity of key stakeholders to achieve agricultural transformation. In particular, the Agency strives to:

  1. Introduce new technologies and approaches that can address systemic bottlenecks & catalyze transformation of the sector
  2. Play a catalytic role to support partners to effectively execute agreed upon solutions (many of which may not be new) in a coordinated manner

By consulting international case studies
and leveraging best practices, the study proposed a prioritization process (such as the Transformation Agenda) to identify and resolve systemic bottlenecks in Ethiopia’s agriculture sector. It also identified the need to establish a dedicated organization (the ATA) to help catalyze and drive the process forward by supporting all key stakeholders in the sector.

During the past four years, the ATA has continued to refine and contextualize the Asian approach of developing and implementing
a “Transformation Agenda” to the practical realities of Ethiopia’s current agricultural system. In addition it has had to tackle two important balances related to scope:

1. Sub-sectoral and Geographic Focus

Transformation of an agriculture sector requires a holistic approach that addresses bottlenecks across the entire commodity value chain. Solving one problem without addressing bottlenecks in another can have disastrous consequences such as price collapses.

Furthermore, the number and diversity of Ethiopia’s regions and agricultural livelihood systems also creates major questions related to pure operational scope. The resources necessary to understand and effectively engage on systemic issues on such a broad range of issues can be daunting.

2. Balancing a focus on capacity building with delivering results quickly

The ATA primarily works by supporting
and strengthening existing institutions and structures to catalyze the transformation of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector. While this remains the primary approach for engagement, it is not the only tool that the ATA must use to catalyze transformation. In some instances there is a need to become more actively engaged on
a particular deliverable in order to generate momentum towards progress. Engaging the long-term owners of a deliverable using a “learning by doing” approach can sometimes be the most effective means of capacity building. The demonstration effect of getting some early wins on the board can also have its own catalytic effect.

Early wins are also important to engage the smallholder farmers of the country into the process. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda must quickly provide useful and effective technologies that can stimulate further innovations from the farmers themselves.