In January, 2009, H.E. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi asked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch a work program that would support the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) in providing strategic input and technical assistance in several key areas of the country’s agricultural sector. Since then, over 100 collaborators have generously participated in the process, from smallholder farmers and rural Development Agents to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute, the International Water Management Institute , the Association of Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and McKinsey & Co.
The project aims to improve agricultural incomes by increasing productivity, ensuring self-sufficiency in food production, strengthening farmer organizations, increasing production of key crops, conserving natural resources, and increasing women’s participation in Ethiopia’s agricultural and economic development. The project utilizes three types of activities to achieve these goals:
1. Input markets diagnostics: Analysis of Ethiopia’s current seed, irrigation and soil fertility system; recommendations to improve quality and usage of improved seed varieties, including hybrid seeds and commercially produced seeds, through capacity-building and the establishment of a private seed sector; recommendations to increase the amount of land under sustainable forms of irrigation and: recommendation to improve soil fertility and fertilizer application that take into account Ethiopia’s varied agro-ecologies, soil, and climate
2. Output markets diagnostics: Analysis of staple crop and livestock value chains, including maize, pulses and cattle; recommendations to improve the impact of the value chains on Ethiopia’s rural and urban poor through a strengthened private sector, and improvements to farm management practices and marketing.
3. Cross cutting diagnostics: Reviews of the strengths and constraints of Ethiopia’s current agricultural extension and agricultural finance system; recommendations to scale up and improve these programs through training workshops, stakeholder meetings, and improved technical and vocational education.