The Agricultural Commercialization Cluster (ACC) introduced in November 2019 by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has led to productivity increase of maize by 50 percent, it was learnt.
The ACC, a project that aspires to gather farmers with pieces of land to farm together employing every means available to enhance their productivity, aims at transforming these clusters into commercial farms owned by the farmers themselves.
According to the website of the ATA, through the ACC, farmers are organized in the “Farmer Production Clusters project, where 30-200 farmers group together on adjacent land to farm as one. These groups of farmers are required to adopt the latest full-package farm recommendations, including use of improved seeds, fertilizer application, and other farming best-practices. Over time, it is expected that FPC farmers will gradually become commercial companies.”
Agricultural clusters and commercialization were integral parts of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, which was based on the two five-year growth and transformation plans the country implemented until 2020.
According to Techane Adugna, Director of the ACC at the ATA, The ACC was introduced to integrate efforts of various actors in Ethiopian agriculture to commercialize and benefit smallholder farmers through a market driven value chain and geographically based approach.
Apart from advocating the initiative of increasing productivity, attention was given to how farmers can increase their productivity on fragmented farmland; how mechanization can take place; how loans can be availed to farmer; and how both the buyers and suppliers in the value chain benefit out of the market.
“We are working to improve this through Agricultural Commercialization Cluster (ACC) system,” he said.
The design of the ACC program builds on the lessons from international and domestic experiences, as well as other programs and efforts in the agriculture sector, and infuses these with international best practices to drive measurable and sustained transformation, according to the Agency.
During the five-year period between 2019/20 and 2023/24, the ACC will be implemented in 300 selected woredas, which are grouped into 31 crop clusters across the four major regions, namely: Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray focusing on ten priority commodities: five in grains – wheat, maize, malt-barley, sesame and teff; and five in horticulture – avocado, banana, mango, onion and tomato.
Techane indicated that 76,000 clusters of all commodities have been established nationwide, and about 30,000 of them are maize production clusters in the Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR regions. Out of these, 24,000 are in the Oromia region, 3,300 in the Amhara region and 2,500 in the SNNPR.
Through clustering, maize productivity had been enhanced from 40 quintals a hectare to 60 quintals a hectare. Farmers within the cluster were offered trainings on maize production package while agriculture bureaus and the Agency monitored and supported them.
According to the agency, the Amhara State expects 15.8 million quintals of maize to be harvested in early December 2021. The maize plantation covers 253,380 hectares of land in 57 woredas, 541 kebeles and 3,332 clusters organized by 570,995 farmers. In addition, these clusters embrace 71,725 female farmers under the ACC package.
These farmers are also engaged in contract farming to be able to get the finance for the conduct of farming before they supply their products to the market. Hence, their produces are sold before they are produced. These contracts are made both before and during the harvesting of the product, he added.
Before the launching of the clustering, the ATA had been testing the approach and how it can be implemented on farmlands in the country. At the time 1.3 million farmers were said to have been organized in 30,000 clusters across Ethiopia.
During the launching of the ACC, it was announced that each cluster plants improved seeds at the same time, using the same agro-ecologically specific fertilizers, benefiting from the same technical support and harvesting their crops with the same machinery.
The ACC is in large part funded by the European Union and its Member States, with major contributions including Denmark with 47 million euros, the Netherlands with 42.5 million euros, and the European Union with 10 million euros. The ACC, implemented in four regions, targets doubling the income of nearly 5 million smallholder farmers in five years.