The Ethiopia- Netherlands Trade for Agricultural Growth (ENTAG) is a project initiated to support agribusinesses & entrepreneurs operating in Ethiopia in specific and develop the agricultural sector in general. ENTAG has chosen 5 priority sectors for its intervention. These sectors are Aquaculture, Poultry, Spices, Sesame and Legumes. Helen Getaw is the Deputy Project Manager at ENTAG she has a BA in Economics and an MA in Urban Development and Management from Addis Ababa University. She has experience at several international and local companies in market surveying, agribusiness support, research, business development and capacity building. Capital sat down with her to find out more about ENTAG.
Capital: What is the driving motivation behind establishing ENTAG?
Helen Getaw: We are helping the private sector develop agribusiness. There are many projects working with smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. However, we saw a need on the market side. We focused on exploring new technologies, technical support, and market linkages to make improvements. After taking the focus of the Ethiopian Government’s GTP II into consideration we selected poultry, aquaculture, spices and herbs, legumes and sesame as our priority areas. We are funded by the Dutch government where potato and dairy farming are well developed so we are also considering taking them up fully. For now we are only partially involved in these. Aside from supporting local companies working in these sectors we also work on attracting foreign investors, mainly from the Netherlands.
Capital: We heard that you have front desk service in your office, could you tell us about it?
Helen: Our front desk service is there to provide legal, technical funding information in the areas we are working on.
Capital: How are you collaborating with the government?
Helen: We work very closely with the government. They are crucial for strengthening the private sector through effective policy making.
Capital: Have the platforms you’ve developed made a difference?
Helen: It is difficult to say we have addressed all challenges of these sectors mainly because the challenges would change through time and circumstances and also because they are multi-faceted hence, identifying them may be done on the platforms but addressing these challenges requires time and a lot of efforts from stakeholders including the private sector, Government and supporting institutions and projects. The aim of the platforms is to identify the challenges and opportunities then discuss on how to address them and who should take the lead in making sure they are addressed. Some of the problems raised even already have solutions but the companies are not aware of them so these platform meetings also serve as information sharing mechanism.
Capital: Do you plan in increase your innovation fund?
Helen: For the first round of the innovation fund call we made we have 15 projects that have won funds reaching a maximum of 25,000 Euro. In total we are dispersing a little over 300,000 Euro, we are under discussion with 2 of the finalists but the rest would get their funding within the coming weeks. With regards to our future plan on funding, for now we have nothing set to be changed but we are flexible to see the results of the projects we are funding now and readjust however, for now we stick to our initial plan.
Capital: How is ENTAG helping to collect reliable data?
Helen: For most of the data collection we collaborate with research institutes, government offices and other stakeholders. ENTAG also does its own work on areas like business opportunities, pilot projects in new concepts and market research to see both the demand and supply of these agricultural products and to identify the needs. We have well documented research conducted on potentials, challenges, opportunities and incentive packages for investors which we use to attract foreign investors. These documents are available on our website. Going forward, we plan to update these documents regularly and make them available at different international platforms.
Capital: Research indicates technical support is a challenge for agribusiness so what are you doing to improve this?
Helen: Technical support has been one of the challenges for both small and big agribusinesses, which is why we have taken it up as one intervention for our project. So far aside from the desk support we provide to any client we go to farms and factories all over Ethiopia to check the operations of these business and advise them on how to make it better. Of course, our support is demand driven and we are far from covering every business but our experts are ones with extensive experience in their respective fields and they provide on farm and off-farm technical support on a regular basis.
Capital: ENTAG has supported trade missions do you think they have supported their goals?
Helen: Yes, so far we have done a couple of trade missions on the sectors of poultry, spices and aquaculture. The last was more of a training mission. I would say that the missions did meat their goal because our aim was to show the private sector players and government representatives the technologies that are available and are being used in other countries, the scale of production and the quality control implemented and I think they were able to capture these notes. Aside from this they also met with technology suppliers and in the case of spice, importers of spices and made beneficial business linkages. So yes, I think we achieved our goal on the missions.
Capital: What are the major challenges you have encountered so far?
Helen: So far we have not faced any major challenge specific to our project. Of course, there is some misconception that projects such as ours are there to address the issue of access to finance through funding but we are changing that through time by creating awareness and showing the value of other supports such as technical and market linkage.
Capital: Do you have any plan to include other agricultural products in ENTAG’s programs?
Helen: Our project is flexible, if we see a potential sector worth taking up we would consider it but for now there is no set plan for that.