Advisors at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) are proposing a separate entity for the management and administration of land resources in Ethiopia, a recommendation prominent experts in the field have been forwarding for many years.
Pannel of experts who have been working on agricultural reform programs in light of the eight bottlenecks and recommended solutions of the sector identified by the national Home Grown Economic Reform; among these establishing a separate entity to properly manage land issues was a priority.
Speaking on behalf of MoA at the monthly Addis Wog discussion platform organized by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Anteneh Girma (PhD), chair of the agricultural reform technical committee, aegued that Ethiopian agricultural sector has taken huge leaps forward during the past 15 years. But, it still faces challenges because of various reasons.
Hence, the diagnosis by the technical committee brought out eight deficiencies that affected the agricultural sector. These are lack of integration in land management and administration, lack of technological support for the agricultural sector and government dominantion over this process, almost unavailable level of finance for the agriculture sector, very limited insurance services for the agricultural sector, backward production system limiting technological infusion, rain dependence and shorfalls in the growth of the irrigation subsector, lack of incentives for the engagement of the private sector, and lack of efficient execution capacity of the government.
Therefore, Anteneh said, in order to overcome these hurdles, the role of the players in the sector needs to be changed as the government alone could not do it. Hence, there needs to be fundamental changes in the focus of the government and its institutions. For instance, so far, the focus of the government has been on addressing supply side bottlenceks, such as raising productivity; but the government should also go beyond that by giving due attention both to the supply and demand sides, he added.
In order to bring about this change, there needs to be proper legal framework that can govern these activities, he added. In respons to that, the government is now preparing land use policy. In addition, a separate and independent entity both for the urban and rural land management and administration is proposed.
Anteneh also lamented the fact that despite the 33 percent contribution of the agricultural sector for the nation's GDP, it only gets 10 percent of the total loans disbursed by the commercial banks in the country. Hence, the establishment of agricultural banks and expansion of cooperative banks is in the list of considerations to avert challenges posed by the lack of finance.
This will lead to inclusive and sustainable agriculture in turn contributing to the decrease of inflation.
"If we work hard on this, we can fully cover the local wheat consumption within three years," he affirmed.
Speaking at the panel discussion, livestock specialist Alemayehu Seyoum (PhD), concures with the plans in the reform agenda, especially the land use policy. But, he said, livestock development should also include the urban livestock sector.
Again, the customary view of land that if it could not be used for agriculture, it can be used for livestock development, is something that should be reconsidered seriously in regards to land use policy, he said. Livestock development should be seen in terms of finance, as well as time.
Speaking to The Reporter on the sidelines of the forum, the prominent land researcher and expert, Dessalegn Rahmato, also said that these initiatives are positive and they are what experts in the field have been calling for all this time.
"The important thing is the independence of the institution that is meant to manage and administer land," Dessalegn said, adding that "land requires an independent and national institution."
This institution, according to Dessalegn, is a service giving entity and should not be political; it gives information, technological support and does recording of activities on land for others to use.
Asked whether it should be a ministry, an agency or a commission, where it will have a representation in the cabinet of PM Abiy in the case of the former, or a gathering of professionals in the second and third cases, Dessalegn said that, if it is not a matter of bureaucracy it does not matter whatever name it is given.
"That is why I said its independence is important; who decides on its budget and who is it accountable to?" he asked indicating that these factors matter for independence.
But, determining land use is what experts do; it requires leg work on the ground to measure and cut; and it requires wider discussions, he added.