Q&A with Shahid Rashid: A look back at 2014

IFPRI researcher Shahidur Rashid with Ethiopian farmersWhat are some of the major projects from 2014?

I would highlight four main projects this year. The first is the wheat evaluation that we did for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), which led to some really serious discussions between the ATA, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Commerce about reforming the wheat subsidy program from a general subsidy to something more targeted.

The second would be the use of the Direct Seed Marketing (DSM) report for the ATA’s strategy development. They have intensively used the seed report to refine their policies, and the MoA is planning to expand the DSM this year. So I think the report has had quite a substantial impact.

Third, our work on gender provided important input for the ATA’s strategy development, and it will continue to have an impact in the coming years. Already, there are conversations going on in the ATA and within the Ministry of Agriculture as well as other ministries about gender mainstreaming. In Ethiopia, they did not have this kind of database of information on gender research from the last ten years, so this will serve as a basis for many of their follow-up policy conversations on gender.

The fourth one would be capacity building. The trainings that James Warner, Gashaw Abate, and Leulsegged Kasa did on Stata have been very helpful for the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the ATA. The training that Nick Minot led on the multi-market modeling, which is highlighted in this issue, is very timely because the ministry has been talking about reforming their crop policies but did not have the analytical tools to do the work. Neither did the ATA, so I think that the training was very helpful for them. The analytics team within the ATA has already started using the new model.

How is the partnership between IFPRI and the ATA progressing?

There has been substantial improvements in the partnership, and I give credit to our team in Ethiopia— James Warner, Gashaw Abate, and Leulsegged Kasa. They all played an important role in doing day-to-day communication with the ATA. They’ve also done an excellent job expanding our partnership with the Central Statistics Agency (CSA), the EIAR, and other partners, so I think that they are contributing quite significantly.

Another important mandate for our project is to form partnerships with centers of excellence, both in Ethiopia and abroad. Already we have developed a very good relationship with the EAIR, which resulted in a formal partnership earlier this year. And this year, we also formed a partnership with Cornell University, mainly the soil science and applied economics and management, for the fertilizer-blending project. So we’re laying the foundation this year and planning to grow our partnership further in the future.

Where is the project headed in 2015?

Strategically, our focus will be mainly on the evaluation side, such as looking at the ATA’s operational effectiveness and how they are impacting smallholder farmers. That will be one area.

Another project that we are working on is scaling up the mid-line survey. The baseline survey was done in 2012 in the four main agricultural regions in Ethiopia — Oromiya, Amhara, Tigray, and SNNP— and included data on over 3,000 households. This follow-up survey will cover more households and include a lot more indicators so that we can effectively track the progress of the ATA’s interventions in the coming years.

The other area will be consolidating our work. We have been doing a lot of piecemeal work, and I think that needs to change. The ATA would like to change that as well, so, we are expanding our survey coverage so that we have a bigger sample from the mid-line survey. Then, the focus will be on cluster strategies. Under this strategy, there won’t be commodity-specific interventions anymore. Instead, the ATA will have a cluster of woredas that they will be working in, and the woredas will be earmarked for specific commodities and value chains. We’ll have broader indicators, from the midline survey, to compare the situation before and after ATA. Those will be the key issues, but we will also continue to provide strategic inputs into many of the ATA’s programs and evolving policy issues.

The other thing I should mention is finishing the ATA mid-term evaluation report, which is a pretty significant accomplishment. We were able to bring on a great team—Howard Elliot, Peter Hazell, Christopher Gibbs, William Lyakurwa, and Roger Slade—it’s the dream team. Among them, they brought many decades of experience with evaluation, policy advice, and research in world-class institutions such as the World Bank, AERC, IFPRI, ISNAR, as well as academic institutions. The report has some very solid recommendations for the ATA. They have done an excellent job, and the ATA seems to be happy with it as well. We expect to release the final report in 2015.


This article originally appeared in Volume 3 of REAP's project Newsletter. Read the full newsletter here. Download a PDF of volume 3