Since the turn of the Ethiopian Millennium and consideration of rice as a “Millennium crop”, the Ethiopian Government and its development partners have been giving due attention to rice sector development and different strategic and policy documents have been developed including National Rice Research and Development Strategy (2010 – 2020), the National Rice Development Strategy (2021 – 2030), the National Seed Sector Development Strategy (since 2017), and the National Agricultural Investment Plan (2020 – 2030) that considered rice as one of the five important commodities (MoA, 2020 and 2021; MoANR, 2017; MoARD, 2009). These documents indicate the huge potential the country is endowed with for rice sector development. However, the performance of the rice sector was not to the expectation as there has been considerable mismatch between the rate of increase in consumption and domestic production forcing the country to import using its meagre foreign currency reserves. Thus, it is timely endeavor to design and implement rice specific flagship programme with adequate mobilization of human and financial resources.
The specific nature of rice and the domestic evidences especially in the Fogera plain indicate that rice and its commercialization has huge potential in (i) promoting food and nutritional security and income for smallholder and commercial farmers, (ii) enhancing gender and social inclusion and emergence of rural labor market, and (iii) promoting overall agrarian changes through rural-urban linkages (Alemu and Thompson, 2020). The APRA Ethiopia research has clearly documented how the Fogera plain known for food insecurity and dependence on
humanitarian assistance has become one of the areas with demonstrated agrarian changes and livelihood improvements following rice introduction in late 1970s. This implies the huge potential contribution of the Flagship Programme within the agri-food system framework at the country level (Van Berkum et al., 2018); HLPE, 2017).
With the funding from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), CABE Africa-led Consortium was engaged to design a Flagship Programme on Rice in Ethiopia to better support the resilience of food system MSMEs in both the current crisis and in future crises. The overarching goal was to enabling building back
better and supporting healthy diets in the food systems in which GAIN operates.
Also, the flagship programme wasdesigned to ensure the implementation of the National Rice Sector Development Strategy II (2020 – 2030), which targets the enhanced exploitation of existing rice production potential to ensure (i) improved food and nutritional security at household level, (ii) enhanced livelihood opportunities from the rice based agrarian changes including development of rice processing industry, associated social services and business opportunities, and (iii) rice import substitution.