The Ethiopian Agri-Hub members have boosted the potential for agricultural development in the last 4 years. One of the tangible outcomes is the Learning Alliance, a joint effort to improve farmer’s participation in value chains. The Learning Alliance has engaged 34 Ethiopian organisations, representing some 4500 farmers, in a process of professionalising their business skills as farmer organisations. This helps to enhance the bargaining position of smallholders in the market.
The Learning Alliance has inspired a series of new initiatives. The current priority themes for joint action and learning are: Seeds, Sesame, Rural Business Development Services, Access to Finance, Pastoralism and Livestock. Activities in all these areas will focus on strengthening entrepreneurship among farmers and their organisations.
The seed business is an example of a very promising market in Ethiopia. Up until now, seed production was largely controlled by the state, but this situation may change in the near future. Network members have started new projects to support farmer-based seed multiplication. Several NGOs and academic staff of both Ethiopian universities and Wageningen UR have shared their experiences with developing local seed businesses. Agri-ProFocus contributed to national seminar about this topic, which created new opportunities for collaboration between the participating organisations.
Women entrepreneurship deserves a lot of support in Ethiopia. The country remains one of Africa’s most tradition-bound societies, in which gender equality is a rarity. The Agri-ProFocus network has put women economic empowerment on the agenda. National and international experts meet regularly to discuss common issues, for example the roles of woman and man in quality production. Agri-ProFocus links Ethiopian experiences on gender in value chains to those in other developing countries.
The Royal Dutch Embassy in Addis Abeba has been an important supporter of coordination and joint learning for Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. Several Dutch organisations have leading roles in the Agri-ProFocus network. They focus for example on capacity building of marketing organisations or improving chain coordination.
Agriculture in Ethiopia has two faces. On the one hand, the country is a successful exporter of coffee, oil seeds and flowers. This cash crop sector is responsible for 60% of Ethiopia’s total exports. On the other hand, the great majority of farmers are subsistence farmers, whose livelihoods are plagued by periodic droughts, soil degradation, high levels of taxation and poor infrastructure.