Origin of the Agency
Ethiopia is a country of natural contrasts, with waterfalls and volcanic hot spring, dry desert lands and rich fertile soil. Agriculture is the foundation of the Ethiopian economy. It contributes approximately 46 percent to the national GDP and employs over 80 percent of the population.
The past decade has been one of agro-optimism. In the last 5-years, the agriculture sector has grown at a high rate of 8% per year. The Government of Ethiopia has created the Agriculture Transformation Agency to build on this progress and drive the transformation of the agriculture sector to realize the interconnected goals of food security, poverty reduction, and human and economic development.
Building on the impressive gains of the preceding decade, Ethiopia’s current Five Year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) establishes ambitious targets for agriculture for 2011-2015. The targets focus on enhancing the productivity and production of smallholder farmers and pastoralists, strengthening marketing systems, improving participation and engagement of the private sector, expanding the amount of land under irrigation, and reducing the number of chronically food insecure households.
The overall target is a minimum growth rate of least 8.1% per annum in the agricultural sector over the five-year period. Sub-sectoral targets include tripling the number of farmers receiving relevant extension services, reducing the number of safety net beneficiaries from 7.8 to 1.8 million households, and more than doubling the production of key crops from 18.08 million metric tonnes to 39.5 million metric tonnes. Specific targets are aligned with and in support of the targets contained in the CAADP Compact and other Ministry of Agriculture-led initiatives.
A series of diagnostic studies and multi-stakeholder consultations were led by the Ministry of Agriculture with support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to begin to identify strategies intended to meet these targets. This process found two key challenges to transforming Ethiopia’s agricultural sector:
- Narrow approach to sectoral change - Many projects and programs have focused on selected aspects of the sector, leading to disconnected interventions that fail to address the root causes of low agricultural productivity. As such, many initiatives do not achieve the cohesion and integration required for success at scale. Furthermore, individual programs are frequently not adapted to local conditions in different regions.
- Lack of implementation capacity – Many large-scale initiatives lack staff with the appropriate mindsets or skills needed at both the federal and regional level. Even projects that are well-designed and well-resourced often fail to meet all their objectives due to the lack of strong project management and systematic implementation.
Furthermore, this study identified learnings from other rapid growth and transformation initiatives around the world and in other sectors within Ethiopia. Key to these efforts has been a dedicated unit with strong management and support from key government leaders that led a successful effort of transformative and sustainable change in a focused program area.
The Agency’s Focus
The Government of Ethiopia established the Agricultural Transformation Agency (the Agency or ATA) by Federal Regulation in December 2010 as a catalyst for positive, transformational, and sustainable change. The primary aim of the Agency is to promote agricultural sector transformation by supporting existing structures of government, private sector and other non-governmental partners to address systemic bottlenecks in delivering on a priority national agenda for achieving growth and food security.
The Agency’s formation results from two years of extensive diagnostic study across eight sub-sectors of Ethiopia’s agricultural system in a highly consultative, multi-stakeholder process led by the Ministry of Agriculture. It has been modeled after similar public-sector bodies in Asia (i.e. Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, etc.) that played important roles in the growth of those national economies. The Agency’s structure and function is focused on nimble, innovative and results-oriented support to a range of partners in the agricultural sector.
More specifically, the Agency has been created to respond to a core set of needs identified by the Ministry of Agriculture and its governing Transformation Council. Although it is a nationally oriented organization, in the initial stage of its work, the Agency will focus its efforts both programmatically and geographically.
Programmatically, the Agency will seek to identify solutions in systemic bottlenecks in both key system areas and value chains of priority cropping systems. The initial focus within the Systems Programs will be the seed sector, soil health and fertility management, cooperatives, input/output markets and extension and research. The value chains that have been identified as the core areas of focus initially are tef, maize, wheat and pulses. In the near future the Agency will expand its work to oil seeds and rice and further in the future will begin work in the livestock sector. Solution development in these program areas will also be informed by work done in the Agency’s Special Initiatives group. This cross cutting group will ensure that the solutions developed within the other program areas are leveraging the most appropriate technologies for Ethiopia and do not have any unintended consequences. Key aspects of this Special Initiatives group include: Technology Access and Adoption, Gender Mainstreaming, Climate Change Adaptation/Environmental Sustainability and Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation.
In each of its program areas, the Agency expects to develop solutions that have applicability throughout the country. However, due consideration must be given to the fact that the Agency is a new organization with limited capacity in the early years. As such, in the initial stages the Agency aims to focus its direct support in implementing the solutions developed to key parts of the country identified by the Ministry of Agriculture within the Agriculture Growth Program. This does not imply that the Agency will not seek to support the implementation of solutions throughout the country but rather that direct engagement of implementation can only happen in some area in the initial stages.
The Agriculture Growth program (AGP) is a broad based program that attempts to improve the whole range of production, marketing and agro‐processing of agricultural products through enhancing productivity, value addition, and market and irrigation infrastructure. It includes 83 woredas in the Amhara, Oromia, Tigray and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regions of the country. The objective of the AGP for Ethiopia is to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crop and livestock products in targeted woredas with increased participation of women and youth.