The Birth of REAP

The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) set a goal to become a middle-income country by 2025. Another high priority for Ethiopia is to end its dependency on foreign aid to become a self-sustaining nation. The GoE has demonstrated a high level of commitment by allocating over 10 percent of the national budget to agricultural development—substantially higher than most developing countries. In 2009, the government created the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), a five-year plan to strengthen the economy, with a special emphasis on agriculture.

To ensure success of the GTP, late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi approached the Gates Foundation to support a complete review of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector. Due to many years of successful collaboration, the Foundation turned to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to provide its expertise in agriculture. The partnership resulted in a policy support program, Research for Ethiopia’s Agriculture Policy (REAP).

Over a two-year period, IFPRI led eight in-depth studies, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of agricultural production. Throughout the process, IFPRI researchers consulted with many partners and experts —hundreds of smallholder farmers, development partners, NGOs, local institutions and government agencies—both in and out of Ethiopia.

The eight studies were combined into a synthesis report that recommended national strategies to achieve agricultural growth; a central recommendation of the report was the creation of an agricultural transformation agency to test and implement new policies. In December 2010, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified the establishment of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), a first for an African country.

REAP will support the mandate of the ATA and, ultimately, advance the goals of the government’s five-year plan. The first phase of the GTP focuses on small-scale farmers, who produce 95 percent of Ethiopia’s primary crops—cereals, pulses, and oilseeds. The late prime minister wanted to transform agriculture into a leading industry by 2015. To reach this goal, however, greater efficiency and increased production must take place at the farm level. Researchers will work with the ATA to make sure that farmers have access to information on adopting best farming practices, such as better planting techniques or soil conservation methods. Pilot projects and research will take place to find ways to improve farmers' access to modern inputs—fertilizer and improved seed varieties. Steps will also be taken to provide farmers with access to credit and better opportunities to sell their goods in the marketplace.

To learn more about REAP's work with Ethiopian farmers, visit the Areas of Research page or read the blog News from the Field.