Ethiopia: Sustained Effort to Transform Outdated Agricultural Practices

Since the beginning of the modern era in the earlier time of the 20th century, Ethiopian governments tried their level best to modernize agriculture but the sector is still remained subsistence and rain fed though it is the main stay of the nation's economy yet.

Dr Getachew Diriba is an economist and a private researcher. In his recently published paper prepared in collaboration with the Ethiopian Economic Association explained that efforts had begun to improve the Ethiopian agriculture since during the emperor Menelik II era from 1881 to 1905. During his reign, the emperor introduced irrigation farm and established the Ministry of Agriculture. Besides, he imported eucalyptus tree from Australia aiming to introduce modern housing construction and satisfy house hold fuel demand. He also launched construction of rail way transport that linked Ethiopia with Djibouti. It is believed that such efforts enabled to open the door for civilization.

Later on, emperor Hailesilassie I, during his reign lasted from 1930 to 1974 added his effort to realize Menelik's dream.

However, both kings had faced various challenges that hampered their efforts due to lack of sufficient structure and human resource. The establishment of agricultural colleges and secondary schools with the support of the USAID could help to undo the problems to some extent.

In the later decades, agricultural projects implemented with the support of international nongovernmental organizations that paved way to the sector to step forward.

Among the projects implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Comprehensive Agricultural Package Extension Program and Implementation Department can be mentioned in this regard.

According to Getachew, the project financed by the USAID and studied by Stanford Research Institute which comprised 8 main programs was implemented from 1967 to 1969.

Nevertheless, the land tenure system prevailed then, created havoc on the program not to be properly implemented and the outbreak of the 1974 revolution a few years later made the effort to remain in vain.

The Dergue regime that placed itself on the throne of the imperial regime made the nation to indulge in political instability. The radical change which abolished the feudal land lord system was unique in Africa but did not make the farmers free from tenure insecurity. Because of the socialist oriented ideology pursued by the Dergue absolute ownership of land was given to the government. The era was characterized by prevalence of chronic famine, poverty and political uproar.

The down fall of the regime after seventeen years of chaotic reign brought EPRDF to ascend to power. The new regime boasted and preaching that it assumed power for the wellbeing of the farmers and prioritized rural development. Few years later after its power assumption, it announced that it pursued Agricultural Development Led Industrialization program.

In addition, it announced its tentative agricultural programs known as Sustainable Development Plan and Poverty Reduction which was implemented from 2011 to 2015 and from 2016 to 2020 phase by phase.

The first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I) from 2011 to 2015 and the second GTP from 2016 to 2020 are part of the above-mentioned development plan.

Following the introduction of the GTP, the government established the Agricultural Transformation Agency in 2011.

Based on the evaluation after the introduction of the first GTP, it was understood that rapid, broad based and inclusive economic growth was registered which enabled to reduce poverty level from 29.6 percent in 2011 to 23.5 in 2016. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) also grew up by 10.1 percent. It was also learned that the contribution of agriculture to the GTP reduced to 39 percent.

Within the sector, the contribution of crop sub sector was 27.4 percent and that of the live stalk sub sector was 7.9 percent and the rest is covered by the fishery sub sector.

According to evaluation by the government, the reduction of the agriculture sector's contribution to the GDP indicated that there was slight economic transition from agriculture led to that of industry and service sectors led. Nevertheless, some argue that regardless of the multidimensional poverty reduction parameter, significant number of the population was trapped in severe poverty.

As to Getachew, despite the government's claim of structural change in the agricultural sector, it is still characterized by obsolete farming methods and rain fed which is common almost in all parts of the country. In the rural parts of the country people still are neglected from getting sufficient government infrastructural services such as road transportation, electric service among others. Almost 90 percent of the rural population still utilizes biomass for house hold fuel consumption which in turn induces the clearance of vegetation and land degradation.

Therefore, it is fair to say that the outcome of the growth did not show the government's ambition to achieve structural change manifested by transition from agricultural led economy to industry led one.

Moreover, both the manufacturing and service sectors did not reach at the level of replacing the agriculture meaningfully.

Through the implementation of the GTP, even though some progresses were achieved, almost 1/4th of the citizens have not been uplifted from poverty yet. The number of unemployed in the rural parts of the country had been increasing. At the end of the two consecutive GTPs, the agricultural sector remained in utilizing obsolete farming tools and the utilization of modern inputs was insignificant. Therefore, one can boldly conclude that the program did not achieve attempted structural change.

In fact, The EPRDF regime in the last two decades tried its level best to implement various development programs by targeting poverty alleviation in the rural part of the country and achieved some progress particularly in crop productivity. Though some recessions witnessed, the agriculture sub sector could achieve 4.1 percent but due to the frequent occurrence of extremely bad weather conditions, sustaining the growth faced challenges.

Currently, the government has dedicated its time, finance and technology to enhancing agricultural production particularly in some selected areas through irrigation. The winter season irrigation system underway aimed to augment wheat production could be a typical example in this regard.

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