We must move from ‘business as usual’ to stimulate agriculture transformation
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29 August 2022
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Hailemariam Desalegn Bosh, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Chair of AGRA Board

 

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia has designed three flagship programs to promote local production and consumption of four critical agricultural items; wheat, rice, oil seeds and animal feed.

The flagship documents were designed in accordance with the government policies to reduce importation of food commodities that can be produced locally.

During the handover ceremony of the flagship programs titled: National Wheat Flagship program (NWFP), the National Rice Flagship Program (NRFP), and the Oil Seeds and Animal Feed Production Flagship Program (OSAP), PAMACC Editor - Isaiah Esipisu sought to know the way forward for other countries from the Hailemariam Desalegn Bosh, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and Chair of AGRA Board.

Q. Is there a possibility of up-scaling such flagship programs to other African countries, particularly where AGRA operates?

A. This is already happening. We have flagship programs for rice value chain in West African countries. We also have the same in Ethiopia and a few other African countries. There is huge potential for up-scaling such programs in many other African countries.

There is one flagship program in Burkina Faso focusing on rice development, another in Mali, and we have agricultural development program in Ghana. Lastly, we have seed flagship program in Rwanda.

 

Q. What lessons can Africa draw from these flagship programs?

A. The lessons we have learned in these types of engagements is that the business as usual approach in agriculture production has not yielded results. So we need to have concerted efforts, thinking about systemic change and collaboration from all stakeholders. It should never be left to be the business of the Ministry of Agriculture, but a business of all those who are involved in the value chain, all the way from production to markets. This includes the consumers and the nutrition aspect of the agricultural products.

It needs collaboration from the governments, the private sector, development partners, as well as the youth and women.

These are some of the lessons we have learned from the flagship programs, and the best out of it is that the program can help in mobilizing resources both financially and human.

 

Q. Is there any specific lesson we have learned from Ethiopia in particular?

A. Ethiopia started the flagship program some years ago with main focus on the wheat sector. Rice and the edible oil are now the two new flagships. The wheat flagship has always been referred to as Agriculture Commercialization Cluster. This starts from improving the seeds, improving the agronomic practices and clustering farmers to engage together for united production, and it involves the young people and women in wheat production.

However, the flagship was not been properly packaged and put in place where the private sector, young entrepreneurs as well as development partners can fund beyond what the government is trying to do. The new flagship package will help Ethiopia bring all those stakeholders together, increase productivity and production, but also increase the resources. We will move beyond highland wheat farming where we highly depend on rainfall, to lowland wheat production based on irrigation. That means that even when there are no rains, the production will continue.

This venture needs a huge amount of resources in order to succeed. Yet, the government alone cannot do that. So this document will help us mobilize resources from outside the government coffers from all partners including the private sector.

 

Q. What will be the process of implementation of these flagship programs in Ethiopia?

A. Actually the government is the initiator and the owner of the programs. The smallholder farmers are private engagements. They invest their labor, their resources, they buy fertilizers etc. Such processes have to be facilitated by availing finance through credits and market for the produce.

That calls for the involvement of private banks and public finance institution. So we will need a blended kind of mechanism. We need to have a finance system that is functional, improved seed availability and fertilizers.

 

Q. How impactful is this likely going to be on agricultural transformation that is the main focus for AGRA?

A. Of cause transformation will come in due course. It is a process. So as we improve, we have to accelerate the improvement to bring about transformation. Indeed, this is the beginning of transformation, and the end goal is to have surplus for the market and commercialization.

So, agriculture is a business. We should come out of thinking that agriculture is only for subsistence. We need to move to commercial. So we have to increase value addition and bring about the desired transformation. When agriculture becomes a business, then transformation automatically takes place.

 

Q. How are we going to ensure that youth and women are involved in this agriculture transformation journey?

A. Actually traditional agriculture production mechanisms will rarely attract young people. In that case, the agri-business needs to be modernized and digitized. Young people are very friendly and very knowledgeable and literate about information technology and utilization of production systems. So if we do that, then we can attract more young people into agriculture. The truth is that the young people are ready to go into this kind of sexy production systems.

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