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Agricultural Growth Program (AGP-I)

$51.5 million to boost incomes of rural people and increase food security by developing the untapped potential of high-potential areas.


Smallholder agriculture is the most important sector of Ethiopia’s economy. More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas, and their main source of income is agriculture. The agricultural sector accounts for about 45% of GDP, almost 90% of exports, and 85% of employment. Despite recent positive developments in smallholder agriculture, yields remain low, and many geographical areas have unexploited potential for productivity growth. The exposure to climatic risk like extreme weather events is high, especially in light of the low capacity to store water and irrigate.


The objective of the Agriculture Growth Program (AGP) was to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crop and
livestock products in targeted woredas (districts), with a focus on the participation of women and young people. The project addressed drawbacks in agricultural production and productivity and focused on scaling up investments and technologies with a proven track record in the country. The project supported agricultural production and commercialization by strengthening key public advisory services, by establishing and strengthening farmers’ organizations, by scaling up best practices in agricultural production,
by developing markets and agribusiness, and by developing and managing small-scale infrastructure.

Project Status






Focus area

  • Inclusive Business

Supervising entity

FAO World Bank



GAFSP supported the government’s comprehensive AGP, financed by multiple donors, with investments contributing to  commonly defined outcomes across all donors. Close to 700,000 farmers, of whom about 19 percent were women, benefitted
from the project reaching the intended target. The project’s outcome was rated Moderately Satisfactory by the World Bank upon completion, which noted that all of its development objectives were largely met. The Technical Assistance (TA) component of AGP was rated as Highly Satisfactory by FAO, which noted that the TA project reached its intended outputs and exceeded most of the project targets. Farmers’ productivity (yield) increased by about 10 percent by the end of the project, short of the target
value of 16 percent. This shortfall was partially explained by the drought period of 2016 (the worst drought in 50 years) when the end-line data were collected. Female farmers experienced a higher increase in yields (13 percent) as did farmers of crops
like potatoes (82 percent) and sorghum (33 percent), while farmers of other crops actually experienced a decline in productivity—e.g., milk (-23 percent), horse beans (-27 percent), and teff (-9 percent)—mainly due to the drought. Activities that supported productivity enhancement included investments in new small- and micro-scale irrigation and drainage schemes (26,528
hectares) the rehabilitation of such schemes (10,190 hectares), and the dissemination of good farming practices and inputs such as the optimal use of inorganic fertilizers and new high-yield variety seeds, proper land preparation, greater frequency and better
timing of weeding, row planting, appropriate planting time (537,335 farmers adopted some improved technologies), and artificial insemination for cows through hormone-induced heat synchronization to increase crossbred male and female progeny with high
milk yields (26,391 improved calves born). Farmers’ revenues from sales of farm products increased by about 25 percent by the end of the project, with even higher gains for women (32 percent). Activities that supported increased market access included investments in infrastructure including the construction of 90 primary market centers, 8 terminal markets, 175 small bridges, and 623 kilometers of feeder roads. This allowed farmers to sell their farm products more directly to consumers as opposed to
intermediaries. The average distance to the nearest market center decreased by 38 percent (from 27 km to 17 km) for households in woredas that participated in AGP. To reach vulnerable groups including landless men and women, the project supported the formation of common interest groups (11,469 groups formed, of which 35 percent were women’s groups) where
members organized and adopted good practices in agricultural activities like beekeeping and growing coffee seedlings. Most of the groups formed under the project were registered, enabling them to benefit from the follow-on operation, AGP-II (also co-financed by GAFSP), and other programs. The accomplishments from AGP are being carried forward in AGP-II, which will expand tested activities into new areas and consolidate activities in existing areas, while modifying the project approach to
incorporate lessons learned from AGP. 

Some lessons learned include the positive role that the private sector played in the small-scale irrigation (SSI) schemes. The engagement of the private sector brought professionalism to the SSI work, and enabled the project to exceed its targets. Private sector participation in SSI work was expanded in AGP-II. Secondly, a lesson was to carry out capacity-building activities using a more consistent, uniform approach. The project did not take a systematic approach to building capacity. Many ad hoc training programs were conducted under the project, but the quality of some of the training was questionable and was not assessed
adequately. With this lesson in mind, a capacity development support facility was established under the AGP-II, which is providing technical assistance using a consistent, uniform approach to capacity building. A third lesson was that group formation and collective action are necessary but not sufficient conditions to achieving agricultural commercialization in Ethiopia. Farmer groups and cooperatives are needed to enable aggregation in a smallholder agricultural setting. However, the establishment of
groups must be accompanied by training on their entrepreneurial capacity for them to enhance their potential in helping farmers and other value chain actors to participate in markets.

Work with Us

The Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP) is dedicated to fighting hunger, malnutrition, and poverty in low-income countries by supporting resilient and sustainable agricultural systems that benefit and empower poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers. Since its inception in 2010, GAFSP has received contributions totaling $1.7 billion from Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with funds going to countries that have strategic, innovative, and credible plans already in place to improve agricultural productivity and food security.

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