Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Agriculture Minister meets with representatives of NGOs

The Minister of Agriculture, Ato Belay Ejigu, received some members of the local and international NGOs last Tuesday when the latter expressed their views on the proposed food security program. The views of the group of NGOs which are supportive of Ethiopia's food security program activities were contained in a consolidated discussion paper.

The NGOs recognized the efforts made by all concerned to address the issue of chronic food insecurity in Ethiopia. They applauded the government's recognition of the problem as a top priority agenda. They also noted with appreciation the approach accepted in the development of the program as a positive step.

The discussion paper, which was submitted to the Minister, said that the proposed program contained a number of constructive and innovative aspects which the NGOs support..

On the other hand, the NGOs identified five key areas of concern, which, according to them, needed to be critically looked into. These issues dealt with policy agenda, the scale and scope of the proposed food security program, gender, accountability and participation.

Institutional arrangements were also included. On the issue of policy agenda, the NGO discussion paper, recognized the identification of supporting and enabling policies. It noted the lack of details on how policies will be reviewed and reformed. It thus recommended the development of specific plans for reviewing and revising key policies that are essential for the success of the program.

The scale and scope of the program was also another issue identified for further consideration. While appreciating the program's focus on the 15 million chronic and transitory food insecure, rather than the only 5 million chronically food insecure, the NGOs called for attention to the timeframe of the program, the phasing of implementation and capacity. It was underscored that the plan to address food insecurity in 200 woredas in just five years was "vastly over-ambitious". Hence, a timeframe of at least ten years was suggested as more realistic.

In relation to gender, the discussion paper put forth a range of points to make women active participants in the implementation of the program.

The Minster informed the representatives attending the meeting that the food security program was a government-owned initiative. It fully welcomed and sought the participation of other stakeholders. He emphasized that NGOs had a unique role in what he called a "history-making" initiative to rid Ethiopia of the sad state of food aid receivership.

He added that the opportunity for wider involvement of NGOs in the implementation of the program for the realization of the ultimate goal of food security was wide open and that both parties should continue to explore modalities for this.

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