ADDIS ABEBA – The landmark Agricultural Commercialization Clusters (ACC) program was formally launched by Ethiopian President Sahle-work Zewdie today.
The ACC – with support of EU, Denmark and Netherlands – is boosting the historically low yields of Ethiopian smallholder farmers by organizing them into crop-specific clusters.
This will help them reap the economies of scale that come from combining numerous tiny smallholdings into larger farmed areas.
The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has spent the last two years testing and ramping up the clustering approach on farmland throughout the country. There are now 1.3 million farmers organized in 30,000 clusters across Ethiopia.
“Each cluster is planting improved seeds at the same time, using the same agro-ecologically specific fertilizers, benefiting from the same technical support and harvesting their crops with the same machinery,” said ATA CEO Khalid Bomba. “The farmer clusters are growing Ethiopia’s main food and cash crops, including maize, wheat, teff and sesame.”
The ACC is in large part funded by the European Union and its Member States, with major contributions from Denmark with 47 million euros, the Netherlands with 42.5 million euros, and the European Union with 10 million euros.
The ACC is a five-year program of the government and prioritizes 10 commodities in a geographically clustered and integrated approach.
Its coordinators ATA said the initiative is currently implemented in four regions – Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray, and targets doubling the income of nearly 5 million smallholder farmers in five years.
During the five-year period between 2019/20 and 2023/24, the ACC will be implemented in 300 selected Woredas grouped into 31 crop clusters across these four major regions, according to ATA.
It “aims to provide a strong platform to deliver on Ethiopia’s Agricultural Development strategy through prioritization of high potential geographies and commodity value chains,” said the agency.
Denmark and the Netherlands are providing core funding to the clustering program.
“Agricultural transformation should benefit society as a whole and it’s essential that the ACC keeps its focus on youth and women inclusion in the transformation agenda,” said Danish Ambassador Karin Poulsen in the opening address of the launch. “Climate-smart solutions in the agricultural transformation are also a key priority for us.”
The European Union’s support to the ACC targets the agricultural clusters in the catchment areas of the four newly built agro-industrial parks that the EU is supporting via its PROSEAD agro-industrial support program.
“The crops grown in these clusters will be a major source of quality raw materials for food production in Ethiopia’s agro-industrial parks, which will create thousands of decent new jobs for rural youth, especially women,” said EU Ambassador Johan Borgstam.