28 November 2019, Addis Ababa: The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has officially launched the Agricultural Commercialization Clusters (ACC) at the at the United Nations Conference Center in Addis Ababa in the presence of Her Excellency President Sahle-Work Zewde, ambassadors, [high-level government officials] and representatives of farmers from the ACC.

In her opening address at the launching event, Her Excellency President Sahle-Work Zewde commended the ACC and the achievements it registered so far, and the promise it holds for the future of agriculture in the country. “The ACC is an impactful, market-driven and value chain approach led by the government of Ethiopia that will contribute to the transformation of agriculture and improvement of the livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers,” she said, adding, “I would like to underscore that inclusion and sustainability is key to the success of this program, and call on implementers to intentionally promote the participation of women and youth in leadership roles in the implementation of the ACC.”

The ACC is a five-year program of the Government of Ethiopia coordinated by the ATA.  It focuses on 10 priority commodities in a geographically clustered and integrated approach currently implemented in four regions – Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray, and targets doubling the income of nearly 5 million smallholder farmers in five years. During the five-year period between 2019/20 and 2023/24, the ACC will be implemented in 300 selected woredas grouped into 31 crop clusters across these four major regions.

The ACC aims to provide a strong platform to deliver on Ethiopia’s Agricultural Development strategy through prioritization of high potential geographies and commodity value chains.  It also focuses on integration of efforts amongst diverse government and non-governmental actors and across the value chain to support the small holder farmers and increase their productivity, creation of market linkages, and enhanced implementation effectiveness, monitoring, learning, and evaluation. The market linkages focus on areas such as forward and backward linkages broadly with industry, and particularly with the Integrated Agro-Industrial Parks.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, State Minister H.E. Ato Sani Redi underscored the Government’s commitment to leading Ethiopia’s economic development through a strong and robust agriculture system. He added, “With a market-driven and coordinated approach, agriculture can drive commercialization and growth – playing a key role in the country’s stride towards middle-income status by 2025  In just a few years of implementation, the ACC initiative coordinated by the ATA has proved that this is possible and doable.” Ato Sani further commended the ATA for its coordination of the ACC and confirmed the Ministry’s commitment to lead and support the initiative to realize its objectives.

At scale, the ACC is expected to not only improve the livelihoods of Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers, but to also enable them to collectively reach commercial farming status where they will have easy access to a full package of agricultural technologies and inputs as well as technical support.  It will also facilitate linkages with markets such as agri-food processors, breweries, and other buyers, creating a value chain that will encourage continuous improvement of production and productivity.

All of ATA’s work is geared towards the ACC, contributing to and building on the initiative’s strategic objectives.  Farmers in the agricultural clusters are already benefiting from the ATA-initiated and managed farmer’s hotline 8028, through which farmers can access technical advice and guidance on issues from land preparation to harvest and storage, and also place queries and get answers on specific farming issues.  Access to better planting practices for special crops, as well as mechanization services is facilitated through the input voucher system, which has reduced the need for direct cash transactions, making it easier for farmers to purchase much-needed inputs.  Agricultural one-stop shops make it that much easier to directly and easily access inputs such as improved seeds, agro-chemicals and fertilizers from shops that sell a range of agricultural inputs all in one place.

ATA CEO Ato Khalid Bomba for his part emphasized the importance of ACC in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by enabling them to transition to commercial farming and helping them ensure food self-sufficiency, and in so doing contribute to Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth. He emphasized, “The farmers are the most important partners in the ACC implementation, and the ATA is committed to working with them in a value-chain approach to increase their decision-making power and income through the ACC.”  He also thanked the community of partners ranging from development partners to civil society organizations to NGOs to the private sector, whose collective contribution is key to the success of the program.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony on behalf of the European Union member states, H.E. Ms. Karin Poulsen, Ambassador of Denmark to Ethiopia, commented, “Accelerating the growth and transformation of the agricultural sector in Ethiopia requires innovative approaches, and the ACC is such an innovative approach.  The Governments of Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the European Union, are pleased to be part of this initiative and its launching event.”

At the launching event, partnership and bilateral agreements were signed with the DANIDA, the Netherlands Development Cooperation and the European Union whose financial contributions have been key to the successful commencement and implementation of the ACC initiative. The Ministry of Finance and Development Cooperation and the ATA signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia.

The Government of Ethiopia, through its coordinating agency, the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, and the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, will implement the Agricultural Commercialization Clusters initiative for the first five years of 2019/20 to 2023/24 in the four regions of Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray, and will expand to other regions building on the successes and lessons from its early years of implementation.