The Hand-in-Hand initiative in Ethiopia

Q&A with Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia

FAO has started adopting the Hand-in-Hand approach to step up efforts to end hunger and poverty) Ethiopia. Could you tell us about this process?

FAO has started adopting the Hand-in-Hand approach to step up efforts to end hunger and poverty) Ethiopia. Could you tell us about this process?

The adoption of the Hand-in-Hand approach at FAO’s corporate level happened at an opportune time for FAO in Ethiopia. In 2020, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) finalized its 10-year development plan (2020-2030), the UN is developing the cooperation framework (2021 – 2025) and FAO is preparing the Country Programming Framework (CPF for 2021 -2025). All the plans demonstrate the GOE’s and partners’ commitment to ending hunger and reducing poverty - key objectives of the Hand-in-Hand initiative.

In line with the priorities and challenges outlined in the country’s 10-year-development plan, FAO Ethiopia in consultation with GOE decided to focus on supporting the Integrated Agro-industrial Parks (IAIPs) initiative.

The idea of launching the Hand-in-Hand initiative in Ethiopia was discussed with senior officials in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture, and it was received positively and with enthusiasm.

A number of potential initiatives were considered before settling to start with leveraging FAO Ethiopia’s work around the government’s flagship Integrated Agro-industry Parks program. The country office is also using the Hand-in-Hand approach to maximize benefits of its ongoing work in support of the implementation of the livelihood component of the Government’s social protection component.

FAO in Ethiopia with the support of the <s>s</s>ub-regional office engaged extensively with FAO’s Africa Regional Office and Headquarters, culminating in the setting up of a broad-based task force to support the conceptualization of the first Hand-in-Hand initiative in Ethiopia.

How is Hand-in-Hand different from previous initiatives, approaches?

How is Hand-in-Hand different from previous initiatives, approaches?

The Hand-in- Hand initiative is different from approaches used before to support the development of Ethiopia’s Agro-Commodity Procurement Zones (ACPZ). Notable differences are:

  • An enhanced, multi-sectoral development focus: From the onset, the program design includes the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Trade, and other stakeholders such as the Ethiopian Economic Association. The initiative also links two of the country’s flagship programs, the Growth and Transformation and the social protection programs. Therefore, this initiative has the scope to demonstrate the possibility of inclusive economic growth pathways.
  • Inclusion of the interest of the poor and vulnerable is market-based interventions: the current design is considering the interests of the poor and vulnerable from the onset, a significant change from the designs of past ACPZ that focused on commercial viability.
  • Stronger collaboration within FAO: Instead of relying on one lead technical unit, the initiative is supported by different departments, offering an opportunity to capitalize on the wealth of experience within the organization.
  • Adopting the food systems approach helped reflect the food security and nutrition concerns in the design of the Hand-in-Hand initiative in an integral manner. Ethiopia has developed several policy frameworks to combat malnutrition in all its forms, mainly the 2015 Seqota Declaration that aims at eliminating stunting among children under two years of age by 2030. The initiative is aligned with the recently endorsed Food and Nutrition Policy of Ethiopia, which addresses malnutrition in a holistic, multi-sectoral approach, and underpins and builds on strong multi-sectoral coordination and partnerships. 

What has been your experience, and what have been some of the key takeaways for FAO in Ethiopia so far from this process?

What has been your experience, and what have been some of the key takeaways for FAO in Ethiopia so far from this process?

The initiative offers FAO Ethiopia an opportunity to strengthen partnerships with other line ministries and government agencies e.g. Ministry of Peace and other stakeholders such as the Ethiopian Economic Association.

There is a strong positive energy behind this initiative, with FAO staff across departments working together at all levels to support the country office. The decision to select an intervention was not easy, given the substantial support provided by the various departments on all the ideas we considered.

The major takeaway is that when the rich and extensive knowledge within the organization is connected with the field programs, it is possible to design better programs and provide stronger policy support to change the lives and livelihoods of rural people.

The travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that face-to-face interactions were not possible during the design phase of the initiative. The country office took advantage of the ICT tools to ensure the success of all the necessary consultative process. The design of the initiative is taking into consideration the possibility of continued travel restrictions. Therefore, most of the training will be undertaken through online platforms.

What is the next step?

What is the next step?

FAO will continue the consultative and advocacy processes. The specific next steps include:

  • Convening a meeting with senior government officials from the relevant Ministries and also consultations with other stakeholders
  • Finalization of the proposal
  • Implementation of the project

How do you see the Hand-in-Hand approach evolving, and playing out in Ethiopia in the long run?

How do you see the Hand-in-Hand approach evolving, and playing out in Ethiopia in the long run?

The Hand-in-Hand approach is appropriate for Ethiopia’s context. Ethiopia has many technical and financial partners, and a strong political will to implement programs that end hunger and reduce poverty. In addition, Ethiopia is a voluntary country for the UN Delivering as One initiative; this gives FAO Ethiopia a head start in the area of cooperating with other UN Agencies. Although the country registered double-digit economic growth since 2004, the growth is not equitable, hence the country is off-track regarding eradicating poverty (SDG 1) and SDG 2 (ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition).

Any recommendations to other FAO member countries - especially to those with a similar context - already applying or envisaged to apply the Hand-in-Hand model?

Any recommendations to other FAO member countries - especially to those with a similar context - already applying or envisaged to apply the Hand-in-Hand model?

It is too early to give recommendations. However, countries in similar contexts should start advocating for the initiative with senior government officials and identifying potential entry points. Governments’ leadership and ownership are vital.

Is there anything else you might like to add?

Is there anything else you might like to add?

The initiative is aimed at strengthening the Government of Ethiopia’s capacity to carry out agricultural investment planning and promotion, therefore catalyzing on investments. The country office anticipates that FAO at all levels will continue to support the Government of Ethiopia’s investment drive, leveraging the expected results of the Hand-in-Hand initiative.

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