Message from the ProAgro Ethiopia Project Chief Technical Advisor

Article | 19 December 2022
Hello everybody,

Our project has turned two years and we are at the half- way mark, having started in September 2020 in Ethiopia. This thereby merits some reflection and retrospection of time gone by.

We excitedly designed this first ILO project to create decent jobs in the agribusiness sector in Ethiopia jointly with the Government of Ethiopia in two regions i.e. Amhara and Sidama but soon after it was launched, we were hit by the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic and then faced with the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the country. This double whammy impacted the work and the progress given the lack of staff mobility, team members working remotely and changed priorities of our tripartite partners both at the federal and regional levels. Nevertheless, we continued to strive by using virtual and online interactions to engage with partners and relying on local consultants to keep the movement on. The entire inception phase of the project was executed online.

We put together a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system for the project and established a partner M&E working group. An independent project evaluability assessment was also undertaken during the period.

The real momentum was gained earlier this year in February 2022 once the humanitarian crisis in the country had calmed down. The team went on an overdrive and the high energy and enthusiasm were appreciated by our partners across the board. This year has been crucial to bringing the project’s speed back on track.

We undertook a joint tripartite mission to the Sidama region to prioritise the issues around collective bargaining and social dialogue both for workers and agroenterprises. A productivity assessment to develop a business case for investment in better working conditions in agro-processors to enhance productivity was carried out. Following the positive recommendations, the project then entered into a partnership with the Ethiopian Kaizen Institute to further contribute to the development of sustainable, responsible, and competitive agro small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by equipping enterprises with need-based capacity building to enhance productivity using the ILO SCORE approach. Approximately 20 agro enterprises will benefit directly together with 3000 workers during the project.

The project has also partnered with the federal Ethiopian Cooperative Agency and conducted training of trainers to build the capacities of federal and regional cooperative agencies and cooperative service providers on cooperative development, using the ILO tools. These capacity building efforts will primarily contribute to addressing market access gaps identified by ILO cooperative assessment and help selected cooperatives establish partnerships with private sector/value chain actors.

Capacity building trainings for the Ethiopian Investment Commission and Regional Investment Bureau’s functionaries on topics of investment attraction and aftercare targeting with reference to international standards was carried out.

We also organised a high-level study tour for senior officials of the Government of Ethiopia and social partners led by the State Minister for Skills to learn and draw from the experience of the functioning of the Indian National Skills Development Council (NSDC) in setting up agro-processing Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to support and ensure enhanced quality and more demand oriented TVET trainings that increases employability and job prospects as part of skills development intervention.

As part of our enterprise development work, the project is supporting potential MSMEs through the provision of technical support and capacity building trainings to enhance their business management skills and productivity to increase their income and create jobs. To achieve this, the ILO business management tool, SIYB (Start and Improve your Business) is being used in both Amhara and Sidama regions.

We also launched the first employment services centre in the Yergalem agro-processing industrial park and developed the first ‘on the job training’ module aimed to be used for industry training in the poultry sector. As the project steps into its next two final years of operation, the focus will be on sustainability and scale ups. The enterprises that we support will need seed funding and access to finance along with market linkages. These enterprises will have to be supported as well the agripreneurs. Moving forward, the project will thereby design and execute strategies to address this gap together with the regional partners.

Working together with sectoral associations to enhance private sector engagement in skills development shall also be pursued. Together with the Ethiopian Poultry Producers and Processors Association, the project will pilot the ‘on-the job training module’ which will facilitate the development and supply of skilled labour force in the poultry sector.

Advocacy efforts and technical support at the federal level to the Government of Ethiopia to proceed and progress on the topic of minimum wages in the country will continue.

Close coordination and cooperation with our tripartite partners to invest in developing a platform like a Sector Skills Councils on agro processing shall be a priority.

The project aims at creating decent jobs in the agribusiness sector but more importantly it is working at initiating a transformative shift in the thinking and understanding around ‘a decent job’ and the processes and parts it comprises of. This shift once undertaken will benefit both the tripartite constituents and the national economy. We are aware that this kind of change does not happen overnight and cannot be easily measured in numbers. The different pathways employed by the project contribute to building that foundation. We are confident that at the end of this project, all the efforts will be recognized in having initiated that culture of ‘decent job creation’ in the agribusiness sector in Ethiopia and hence we will relentlessly persevere. Onward and onward as we march along together. The road is long and the pathways winding, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!

On a personal note, I am transitioning to a new role within the ILO and will continue to support the project from outside Ethiopia but the team on the ground will continue to strive and build what we have started together.

Wish you happy holidays and good cheer for the year’s end. To a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2023!

Warm regards
Ruchika Bahl