Dalhousie University: This $20‑million Dal‑led development project has helped reshape Ethiopia’s agricultural sector

One of the largest international development projects ever awarded to a Canadian university has come to an end after eight years of transformative work in sub-Sahara Africa.

The Agricultural Transformation Through Stronger Vocational Education (ATTSVE) project has helped to evolve Ethiopia’s agricultural practices and education beyond a subsistence-based foundation towards a market-focused system.

“Experts from Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture have helped Ethiopia reshape its agricultural education, improving production, strengthening communities, and helping the country not just survive, but thrive in the 21st century global food economy, recognizing that education was the key to initiating change,” explains David Gray, dean in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie. “Projects like this bring us together to face our challenges together. Agriculture is a global industry, and we are a global community.”

The goal of this more-than $20 million project was to increase the supply of male and female graduates from four agricultural colleges with the skills and knowledge required by the labour market to develop the commercial agriculture sector in Ethiopia.

“The ATTSVE project has been selected by Global Affairs Canada as an example of gender transformative approaches among initiatives in Ethiopia,” said Hannah Pugh, ATTSVE Project Coordinator. “We are proud of the work of female and male staff at the colleges to create environments where female students and staff can excel and feel safe and supported. Leadership roles among women have increased from 25 per cent to 50 per cent which is very impressive.”

Other successes included:

· Increasing the capacity of Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) institutes to deliver high-quality education. Through the work of Dalhousie and project partner staff completing 21 assessments, developing lists and procuring and transporting over $4-million of equipment and facility upgrades, all four target communities are benefitting from access to improved facilities on their ATVET campuses provided by the ATTSVE project; infrastructure allowing consistent access to the internet allows connection with the wider world, and smart classrooms are being used to enrich community events, not just for the benefit of ATVET students and staff.

· Innovative management strategies allowing colleges to lead education in Ethiopia. Through nine training sessions delivered to more than 150 staff on the agricultural campuses, ATTSVE has significantly improved the ability of the ATVET Colleges to design and implement gender inclusive and sustainable management strategies leading to an improved management structure which allows the better delivery of high-quality education.

· Increasing the capacity of Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) institute instructors to teach effectively. The project provided 1,901 hours across 53 trainings and workshops over eight years to 1,552 ATVET instructors and staff across Ethiopia. This includes participants from all 16 ATVET colleges in Ethiopia, not just the four that ATTSVE focuses on.

· New agriculture curricula being used across Ethiopia. After conducting detailed labour market assessments and leading a team of 58 Ethiopian ministry representatives, agricultural experts, and project partners through 450 hours of curriculum development processes, this curriculum was approved in 2017. It is now being used in almost every ATVET in Ethiopia, by more than 15,000 students each year.

· Direct support to local smallholder farmers. The project is providing direct support to farmers and local communities through the development of skills-based short courses using modules from the curriculum development.

· Effective partnerships between public and private sectors. One area that has really transformed thanks to ATTSVE is the provision of cooperative placements for more than 1,500 agricultural students across the four colleges. These private-sector placements have significantly increased the employability of ATVET graduates as the benefits of practical training in a real employer environment cannot be ignored.

· New agricultural businesses. ATTSVE has supported more than 400 graduating students to develop their own agricultural businesses in a range of industries including poultry, cooking oil production, juice processing and dairy.

· Holistic capacity building approach. The significant project impacts can be reflected by Nejo ATVET being promoted to a Polytechnic college in 2021, Wolaita Soddo becoming a centre of excellence in middle level education, and Woreta hosting a campus and delivering degree programs for Debradator University.

Future impact

As well as serving as an impressive example from a suite of agriculture and food security projects that the Faculty of Agriculture has been delivering for 37 years all over the world, one of the greatest impacts of ATTSVE has been its legacy in other East African countries.

Hearing about ATTSVE, the Ugandan government approached the World Bank for support for a similar project, which was awarded to the Faculty of Agriculture in 2017. Successful methods employed in ATTSVE are now being delivered at the Bukalasa Agricultural College — the only state Agriculture college in Uganda — to its 1,000 students.

“It is having a huge impact on agriculture education, entrepreneurship and improved farming practices all over Uganda,” said Miriam Gordon, assistant dean international. “The hope is that, with the support of Global Affairs Canada and other funders, we can continue the ATTSVE legacy of support to the international agricultural sector and ensure food security for many through innovative education and community support”

In future generations, the legacy of the ATTSVE project will lead to better harvests and greater food security, reducing the need for food imports and ensuring that Ethiopia is self reliant and resilient to its future challenges.

This project was funded by Global Affairs Canada through the bilateral program, led by Dalhousie, in collaboration with implementing partners McGill University, Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada.