Supporting Small-Scale Farmers &Amp; Improving Their Marketing Skills
Agriculture accounts for half the gross domestic product and 90 percent of the export earnings in Ethiopia. Farming and livestock production accounts for 86 percent of the country’s employment. Despite the fact that a large majority of the country’s workforce is devoted to farming, agricultural production is falling behind population growth. Food production is almost 1 million tons short of the 7 million tons required annually. This makes agricultural development, the improvement of agricultural markets and diversification of rural livelihoods crucial issues in Ethiopia.
Next to recurrent drought and regular structural food deficits, the most serious agricultural challenges in Ethiopia are a lack of know-how and the widespread use of outdated agricultural practices. In June 1994, ACDI/VOCA initiated a Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Ethiopia with the goal of supporting small-scale farmers and improving their marketing skills. A lack of experience in agricultural development, particularly cooperative development, has slowed the progress of small-scale Ethiopian farmers. To address these concerns, ACDI/VOCA’s program focused on human resource development.
ACDI/VOCA conducted six assignments in the initial 1994 program phase. These focused on capacity-building for agriculture and agriculture-related federal and regional agencies. Specifically, volunteers worked to enhance cooperative development, agricultural management, information systems and technical support. The F2F program continued through 1996 with a total of 20 capacity-building assignments.
As a follow-up, ACDI/VOCA started a five-year $1.1 million F2F program in 1997. The program was geared toward increasing food security by revitalizing farmer-owned cooperatives. Cooperative promoters of the Amhara, Oromia, Tigray and Southern Regions Cooperative Promotion Offices enrolled in courses dealing with cooperative development. The F2F volunteers’ efforts trained promoters to be effective cooperative and business educators.
In 2002, a two-year F2F Program began assisting the regions of Gambella, Benishangul, Afar, Somali and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Volunteers taught courses in cooperative organization and management, marketing, accounting, warehouse management and finance. Cooperative representatives used their training to restructure, revive and strengthen the existing primary cooperatives and form new cooperatives based on voluntary membership and democratic decision-making that can compete in a free market economy.