Implementing Peachtree accounting software at Ethiopian Unions

22-02-2014 In most farmer unions in Ethiopia the financial accounting is done manually. Both the union management and Agriterra have identified this as a serious problem. Manual accounting is time consuming and it makes reporting almost impossible. Usually the first real progress reports over the previous financial year became available after auditing, which was often halfway along the next financial year. The unions that are a client of Agriterra are involved in complex operations and grow rapidly. This requires quick reporting to make instant management decisions.

To address the issues related to manual accounting, Agriterra has started implementing Peachtree (Sage) accounting software at all of its Ethiopian clients. It started with a pilot project at Tsehay Union. The licenced software was installed on the computers and 5 staff members received a 5-day training on digital bookkeeping. In first instance the manual accounts were simply transferred into the digital accounts. Soon the financial staff developed confidence and skills in using the software. With the help of Dutch agripoolers from Flynth Accountants, the union started expanding the cost centres and use of more advanced techniques.

The results of the pilot project were identified as excellent by the management of Tsehay. The management is now able to make quick decisions, because there is for instance up-to-date understanding of the cash flow and the profitability of the cost centres. However, it turned out that there was need for quite a lot of follow-up in the implementation face. Therefore Agriterra hired the Ethiopian consultancy firm Target Consult, which developed a training trajectory to implement the Peachtree software at 9 other client unions of Agriterra.

Target Consult selected 3 training teams who went to the unions. One month after the 5-day introduction training, a 2-day training was provided to give follow-up on the entries done in the first month. After 3 months another training was given on developing a reporting structure based on the data entered over the first 4 months. Currently, the unions continue to work on intensifying their management financial information system.

Most of the unions in training are adapting very well to the digital accounting system. However, there are also challenges. At one union, two of the trained staff left the union immediately after the training. Having an understanding on digital accounting opens job opportunities. On the other hand, it seemed that the employment incentives at the union were also rather unfavourable.

Overall it can be stated that the implementation is successful. Agriterra now tries to develop a culture at its clients where digital accounting becomes the norm. Therefore a second implementation trajectory will be started with another 6 unions that are already clients of Agriterra. Besides these unions, Agriterra will also focus on training the Regional Cooperative Agency, the Federal Cooperative Alliance and local Agriterra staff to make them become well known with the system.

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