Apr 25 , 2020

The Ministry of Agriculture, which completed its budget ahead of the project period, has pleaded for additional financing of 250 million dollars from the World Bank for the Second Agricultural Growth Programme.

The second phase of the Agricultural Growth Programme, which is part of the second edition of the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP II), was started five years ago with a total of 581.8 million dollars. Of which, 350 million dollars is covered by the International Development Program (IDA) of the World Bank. The remaining is financed by development partners and parallel financing between the government of Ethiopia and IDA.

The Programme focuses on five areas including small scale irrigation projects, agricultural extension research programmes, agricultural marketing, programme management and agricultural public support services.

Small-scale irrigation takes the lion's share with close to 44pc of the total financing. Agricultural public support services gets the second-highest budget with 129 million dollars, followed by agricultural marketing and value chain support with 120 million dollars. Agricultural extension research and programme management receives 51.4 million dollars and 62.8 million dollars, respectively.

After the budget was disbursed to the regional states, Amhara, Tigray and Gambella have fully used 100pc of their budgets. In contrast, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, & Peoples' regional states scored 71pc and 80pc, respectively.

Most regional states have used up all of their budgets and require more money to finalise the projects, according to Oumer Mohammed, minister of Agriculture.

“Whereas some are en route to accomplishing their projects,” he told Fortune, "there are efficiency and contract estimation issues that led to the need for additional budget.”

After several consecutive meetings and screenings with the team of the World Bank, the possible injection of the budget was pushed down to 130 million dollars, according to Oumer. Regardless, the Ministry has not yet received any confirmation on the approval of the budget.

“Based on our conversations, we're expecting it to be released by June,” he said, “but with the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the agenda might change. We are waiting.”

If the World Bank’s additional budget is not released, the Ministry has directed the regional states to execute the projects with their budgets, according to Oumer.

The problem with such projects is in project design and goal setting, especially in agricultural projects, according to an agricultural economist who commented under the condition of anonymity.

"It's always either very optimistic or very extravagant with the government projects in the country," he said. "It's evident the projects should resume at all cost rather than leaving the job unfinished to start new projects."

At the end of the last year, the World Bank had issues with some of the small-scale irrigation projects in Amhara and Tigray regional states. By global standards, irrigation projects that are less than 15m in height are considered small-scale. However, projects at Amhara Taba, Belechit, and Enenzer in Amhara and DebereWork in Tigray produced dams higher than 15m. This has led to the termination of these specific projects by the World Bank.

“This was a huge mistake," he said, "we had a discussion with the World Bank to subdue the problem."

The second phase of the agricultural growth programme will tie the knot at the end of July as the second edition of the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP II) is finalised. Before this, more than 20 employees that were hired on a contractual basis in the federal government for the project received letters a month ago notifying them that their labour would no longer be needed.

The Programme has also received one million euros from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). It is implemented in Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, SNNP, Gambella, Benishagul-Gumuz and Harari regional states and Dire Dawa, in which 157 weredasand 4,069 rural kebeleswere targeted to benefit 1.6 million people.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 25,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1043]

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