Agriculture remains to be the dominant sector in Ethiopia's economy and an important source of economic growth.
The sector contributes 39 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment opportunities for about 73 per cent of the population of Ethiopia. It also contributes over 80 per cent of export earnings, according to Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Ethiopia has formulated agricultural policy and strategy known as Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization (ADLI) in 1992 to create a conducive environment for growth in the sector.
Under the ADLI, Ethiopia has set successive five-year plan that evidently successful in enabling the country to register an average 7 per cent agricultural growth during the past 15 years and enhanced agricultural products and productivity.
Despite this progress and its pivotal role for Ethiopia's economy, the sector's performance remained largely unsatisfactory.
Poor access to agricultural inputs and market access, lack of skills, ineffective planning and communication strategies as well as shortage of resources are mentioned to be among the major challenges Ethiopian smallholder farmers have been facing.
In this regard, it is believed the sole efforts of the government would not fully address the shortcomings unless the active participation of various development partners such as Sasakawa Global 2000 is added.
In his opening remark at the 30th Anniversary of Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), the parent organization for Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) in Adama town of Oromia State, Agriculture and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Eyasu Abreha affirmed the fact that strong collaboration between government entities and development partners is crucial to enhance agricultural products and productivity, and address challenges that the sector has been encountering.
The minister commended the exemplary role that SG2000 has played for Ethiopia's agricultural development and supporting smallholder farmers in its 24 years' history in the country.
Dr. Eyasu applauded the partnership between the then Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Agricultural Offices with Sasakawa Global 2000 Ethiopia during the 1993-1995 period that manifested achievement in increasing crop yields by two to four folds.
The minister noted that Ethiopia's viable agricultural policies coupled with large scale public investments in the sector and in terms of agricultural extension, building rural roads and improving land tenure security enable the country to register successive agricultural growth during the past 15 years.
Commendable participation of development partners including SG 2000 are also beneficial to the country intensified and accelerated agricultural outputs in the stated time.
Ethiopia set to register a 52 per cent increase in major crop production during GTP II plan period and what Dr. Eyasu stressed government's collaboration with development partners is a key factor for its success.
He said: "'During the second GTP period, we set to increase the current 270 million quintals major crop production to 410 million and enhance agricultural production by 8 per cent to meet the growing demand for food, industrial raw materials and foreign currency earnings. To make this happen, the support from development partners including SG2000 is so vital."
The number of smallholder farmers benefited from SG2000 Ethiopia's packages has shown a four folds' increment within two decades to reach 13.9 million raising from 3.1 million in 1995.
The minister has called on SG2000 to further strengthen its support for Ethiopia's efforts to enhance agricultural productivity and transform the lives of smallholder farmers.
Dr. Eyasu affirmed his ministry's commitment to extend the necessary assistance that would enable the association achieve its objectives.
Sasakawa Global 2000 Ethiopia Country Director, Dr. Abera Debelo noted that the association has made significant contribution in promoting transfer of agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers and increase product and productivity in collaboration with various government organs.
According to the Country Director, the association has also made good contribution in enhancing crop productivity, post-harvest handling, strengthening public-private partnership as well as establishing effective monitoring and evaluation system.
"SG2000 has a success story in Ethiopia in building the capacity of development agents /DA/ and introducing modern farming techniques for smallholder farmers," he said.
During the occasion, SG2000 launched a five-year strategic plan for 2017-21. The plans set in line with GTP II gave due emphasis to climate change, youth, women and people with disabilities. Dr. Abera stated that the plan would have a role to support governments' efforts to uplift smallholder farmers from poverty.
SG2000 Ethiopia allocates up to 1.5 million USD for annual operation and largely involved in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Benshangul-Gumuz states, according to the Country Director.
Team Coordinator of the Public Private Partnership and Market Access (PPPMA) with SG2000 Ethiopia, Berecha Turi on his part indicated that the association allotted a 10 million birr revolving fund to enable micro-finance institutions extend a loan guarantee for farmers' cooperative unions and to enable farmers invest in farming tools, storage constructions and others.
Sasakawa Global 2000 is an agricultural initiative of two non-governmental organizations: Sasakawa Africa Association and the Carter Centre Global 2000. Of these, SG2000 started its program in Ethiopia in 1993 aiming at increasing production and productivity to attain food security and increase farm incomes.