A sit down with Khalid Bomba, CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (video interview)

ATA CEO Khalid Bomba

Khalid Bomba, the CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), recently sat down in a video interview to discuss Ethiopia’s newest agency. Ethiopia may be the site of multiple development projects, but the ATA is a “unique organization” Khalid said during his interview. “The structural issues that constrain the agricultural sector have not been addressed holistically,” he said adding, “The ATA was created to work with partners, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional bureaus of agriculture, to address the structural issues and ensure the gains… will lead to middle-income country status by 2025.”

Smallholder farmers are a big part of Ethiopia’s farming culture, contributing over 90 percent of agricultural output in the country. The new agency has a mandate to champion the cause of small-scale farmers: “The ATA’s work is focused exclusively on identifying the bottlenecks constraining the development of smallholder[s]…,” Bomba said. Reaching this key group of farmers—to promote efficient farming practices, solve supply and demand issues, provide better access to credit and modern tools— will not only impact smallholders, but will contribute to “overall economic growth of the country.”

The agency is only a year old but already, significant projects are underway. Ethiopia’s first digital soil map is being created a “one of a kind project in the world” says Bomba. Teams are mapping the entire country through satellite technology and remote sensing while collecting over 16,000 soil samples. With an up-to-date soil map, farmers will be able to assess the soil fertility needs of their plot and take the needed steps to replenish depleted soils. This will lead to healthier soil, higher productivity, and sustainable land management. IFPRI’s research in identifying the bottlenecks in the fertilizer sector helped the Ministry of Agriculture adopt a new fertilizer projection model to better assess the true needs of farmers: “This kind of research has not only refined the policies of the government of Ethiopia but has saved the government a significant amount of hard currency,” says Bomba.

But the CEO eagerly points out that the ATA is not a permanent bureaucracy in Ethiopia. “We believe the ATA will only exist for 15 to 20 years; acting as a catalyst to transform the agricultural sector over time, and then, once that activity has been undertaken successfully, it will cease to exist.” Here’s more from Bomba on the ATA and the projects underway in Ethiopia.

Read full transcript of the interview with Khalid Bomba  here.