Gambella, Benshangul-Gumuz commune programme target met: Ministry

 Over the last four years, each household had got three to five hectares of land for farming and irrigation. They as well could plough mainly in rain-fed area as much as they can

“The image tainting report that was released by some institutions or groups like Human Rights Watch about the commune programme is merely a propaganda of ultra neo-liberals and a subtle way of imposing their political agenda on us. The reality is completely different. Indirectly, they opt to dissuade us from fighting poverty and backwardness, though the programme is being implemented on the will of the people. We have already carried out the commune programme in Gambella and Benshangul-Gumuz states.”

So said Federal Affairs Ministry Ensuring Equitable Development Directorate Director General Shanko Delelegn, in a recent exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald regarding the Commune Center Development Plan and Livelihood Strategy Programme in the four emerging states of Afar, Ethiopian Somali, Benshangul-Gumuz and Gambella.

Shanko said that these so-called whistle blower institutions and groups serve the interests of ultra neo-liberal political ideology and they want to inculcate their orientation contravening the overall economic growth of the country. They are fanning neo-liberal political orientation. The commune programme is aimed at ensuring equitable development and has nothing to do with the issues whose objective is encumbering development, he added.

Shanko said: “Had the programme been disrupted, there would have been a widespread poverty and backwardness in the states less favoured by the successive previous regimes. Hence, flourishing and sustainable development in these states would have been out of question.”

Shanko noted that the emerging states get support from the Federal Government based on Article 89 of the Constitution which acknowledges their rights to get support. The Federal Affairs Ministry has been supporting them and executing the commune programme jointly with the Federal Special Support Board. He further noted that the board was re-organized and re-established in 2003 E.C.

As to him, since these emerging states are found at the peripheries of the country and as such for ages they were not benefiting from any infrastructural development and capacity building programmes, among others.

According to Shanko, these states still face acute shortage of skilled manpower, well-organized structure and working system. As a result, their implementation capacity is very low in comparison with other states.

“The Federal Special Support Board is providing them support based on three conditions: constitutional enactment, capacity and development gap and request from them. The Board focuses on filling capacity and implementation gaps,” he added.

Regarding the programme, Shanko pointed out that the requisites for commune are the will of the people, the presence of underground water or water bodies where there is enough water for the community and their animals as well as the preparation of fertile land for farming at a walking distance from communal areas. Social institutions like schools, health stations and others are also among the requisites.

He further indicated that over the last four years, each household had got three- five hectares of land for farming and irrigation. They as well could plough mainly in rain-fed area as much as they can.

In addition, Shanko said the commune programme is backed by agricultural experts to enable the beneficiaries apply modern technology.

Supported by agricultural experts, farmers have adopted agricultural technology and improved seeds and began sowing in a row over the three -four years, he said. Even some have begun using tractors. In so doing, they have managed to boost production and create a viable market link, he added.

Regrading livestock trade, he said to put into effect a modern market system it has to be done taking into consideration cross boarder trade practices. But lack of market linkage and access remain the major problems in these areas.

“There is an ongoing effort in the areas under discussion. Establishing trade centres, organizing market information, creating market linkage and maximizing community’s benefit by selling their crop and heads of cattle,” Shanko added.

Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture is establishing market centres, preparing veterinary facilities and quarantine services. Now, realizing the benefits of legal trade, pastorals are turning their face to the local market rather than going for contraband trade, he said.

Shanko noted that the implementation of the programme began in 2003 E.C with the launching of the GTP. Some 275,000 households were embraced in the commune programme from 2003- 2005 E.C in the four states. The programme benefited 1.5 million people in general.

Capacity limitation and failure to carry out projects according to schedule are slowing down the implementation of the programme. “We are determined to address the problem through time working with the states,” Shanko said

The Commune Centre Development Plan and Livelihood Strategy Programme was designed to bring scattered rural populations closer to schools, health clinics, roads, and other public services.

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