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'Work yourself out of a job' becomes motto for Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency

This blog post was written by Jamie Henneman, an eIntern for the USAID Bureau for Food Security. Jamie attended the "Transforming Agriculture in Africa" conference held at the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC on September 26, 2013. 

Ethiopian agricultural workers stand aside while a tractor rolls by

The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (EATA) started with an initiative, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010, to help the country conduct a diagnostic study of Ethiopia's extension systems in which its had invested significant funds. According to the EATA website, "The function of the Agency is not to replace or supplant any part of the Ministry of Agriculture or any other public sector partner. In contrast, the Agency is helping to build sufficient capacity among its public sector partners and other stakeholders so that it will cease to exist in the future." The study that EATA conducted in 2010 eventually led to seven more studies on agricultural programs conducted in Ethiopia.

Khalid Bomba, CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (EATA), stated that the most effective way to build a nation's agricultural sector is to essentially "work oneself out of a job".

“EATA is not meant to exist forever. We only have 15 to 20 years to act as a catalyst for change by bringing solutions and implementing partners together. In Ethiopia, there is no shortage of vision and ideas, but the ability to implement a strategy can be missing,” Bomba said.

After having conducted the studies, “We realized the recommendations coming out of the diagnostics were far too great for a government, especially one as strained as Ethiopia’s, to implement given the existing structures," Bomba said. "I was working for the Gates Foundation at the time, and we looked around the world, particularly in Asia, and found that when they were successful, there was an organization formed that acted as a catalyst."

Bomba explained that "EATA is not an implementing organization. We work on key areas, take responsibility for certain functions and work with our partners who are able to carry out the task.”  In fact, planning to phase out the organization is perhaps one of the most challenging elements. EATA has divided its 15 to 20-year life span into five to seven-year segments with specific phases of action. Action areas include work on teff, wheat, maize, coffee, sorghum, and livestock.

Progress toward the goal in each of these areas is composed of two phases. The first phase is working with partners to define what the roadmap and the strategy should be as lessons learned on the ground are incorporated. Phase two is when EATA engages to both troubleshoot and update strategies while implementing solutions.

One of the ways to ensure that connections between implementing partners are being made includes the development of quarterly reports, where different organizations are responsible for specific milestones.

"All of our strategies have a capacity building component that will enable us to work ourselves out of a job,” Bomba said. “Agriculture is not just the job of the Ministry of Agriculture, but also the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Roads. We are trying to bring all these groups together for future success.”

For more information, visit www.ata.gov.et