The concept of the Agricultural Commercialization Clusters (ACC) Initiative was introduced during GTP I as a mechanism to integrate the interventions prioritized in the Transformation Agenda within specific geographies targeting a limited number of high-value commodities.

The approach emerged from a request originally made by the Prime Minister in 2006 E.C. to identify a means through which geographically-targeted interventions could be integrated to ensure rapid, sustained, and inclusive development of priority agricultural commodity value chains. The ACC approach is modelled on successes from countries around the world that deployed geographically-focused strategies to transform their agriculture sectors and drive rural industrialization, incorporating lessons learned from Ethiopia’s experience with similar initiatives in the past.

The ACC Initiative contains clearly defined geographic clusters specializing in priority commodities across the four major agricultural regions of the country. These ACC clusters are intended to act as Centers of Excellence (CoE), where regions will be supported to maximize production and productivity while integrating commercialization activities. These clusters are therefore are meant to serve as models for learning as Ethiopia intensifies the ACC approach and scales up best practices across the country. In parallel, many regions have begun to replicate the model across other geographies and commodities.

A rigorous, three-step process was undertaken to identify and prioritize the clusters: identification of primary and priority commodities where Ethiopia has a comparative advantage, identification of appropriate woreda groupings for these commodities that could be ‘clustered’, and final woreda selections based on additional market factors. To collect data necessary both for planning and monitoring achievements in the ACCs, a comprehensive baseline study was commissioned by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Nine priority crop commodity value chains have been identified for focus by the ACC Initiative in the last two years of GTP II: wheat, maize, sesame, malt barley and horticulture crops – tomato, onion, banana, mango and avocado.

To govern and coordinate ACC implementation, Regional Transformation Councils (RTCs), chaired by Regional Presidents, have been established in each region. Cluster and commodity specific Value Chain Alliances have also been established as the primary multi-stakeholder platform to guide and implement activities within each ACC. Finally, an ACC program management office (PMO) was established in 2009 E.C. to oversee the successful implementation of prioritized intervention. Key tenets of the program management office include continuous implementation monitoring and rapid escalation of potential problems to tackle any points of congestion. This platform is expected to considerably cut information asymmetry while emphasizing accountability.

Based on a survey of cluster participants and evaluation of the ACC Initiative in early late 2009 E.C., and a GTP II Midterm Review of the approach in 2010 E.C., a number of enhancements have been identified for how to maximize the impact from the Cluster approach in the remaining two years of the GTP II. First, the ACC Initiative will more narrowly focus attention on specific cereal and horticultural crops while other livestock value chain focused clusters will be implemented through the Livestock and Fisheries Sector Development Project (LFSDP) led by the MoALR. The map below shows the location of the ACCs being implemented in 2011 and 2012 E.C. along with the focus crops for each ACC.

Second, integrated national strategies and implementation plans for each crop value chain will be developed to ensure integration across the value chains as well as individual clusters and woredas. Third, the ACC PMO model will be further enhanced through introduction of stronger program and project management tools and systems, and more frequent and in-depth engagement of partners and stakeholders to better coordinate implementation of the ACCs.

The ATA’s role in supporting the Agricultural Commercialization Clusters

The ATA’s support on the nine priority crop commodity value chains of focus within the ACC will include leading development of national, cluster and woreda level strategies and implementation plans with regional government bodies, and ongoing analysis and studies as needed. These strategies and implementation plans will be focused on achieving specific output, outcome (e.g. yield, marketed surplus) and impact (e.g. crops delivered to major buyers, import substitution) targets defined for each commodity value chain through analysis and consultation with key implementing partners.

Support from the ATA will also include establishing and leading a program management office (PMO) structure at federal and regional levels to ensure effective day-to-day implementation against these targets, and coordinating local-level, multi-stakeholder value chain alliances for each cluster. The ATA will also provide demand-based hands-on technical and execution effectiveness support to regional implementing partners. In addition, the ATA will design and lead a small number of innovative projects to improve outcomes in the ACC.

Beyond the nine commodities prioritized in the ACC during the remainder of GTPII, the ATA continues to support the tef, haricot bean and apiculture value chains in a more limited manner. The organization also aims to support other regionally-led crop clusters outside of the ACCs through sharing tools and ways of working with RBoALRs.