Policies, programmes and agricultural investments in West Africa: what analyses and perspectives are there?
Agriculture in West Africa employs around 60% of the region’s assets. It makes up 35% of regional GDP and 15% of regional exports (ECOWAS). In spite of its enormous potential including among other factors the diversity of agro-ecological systems, the relative availability of land and water, the adaptability of family farming and the significant size of the regional market, still around 17% of the population are experiencing food insecurity. In addition, the region suffers from incoherent and inadequate agricultural and commercial policies.
One should add to these challenges the growth in regional population, increasingly numerous and highly urbanized, climate change and the need to build an efficient regional market, well protected and generating employment and wealth based on national markets and providing prices that prioritize the remuneration of the family farming sector with a view to food security and sovereignty.
The ECOWAP [Regional Agricultural Policy for West Africa] adopted in 2005 is a response which should allow:
- To better regulate the offer and demand of agricultural products by de-compartmentalizing the markets;
- To build a commercial policy that favors the agricultural sector;
- To define a clear and ambitious vision in respect of agricultural policy;
- To improve the impact of the region on international negotiations.
The civil society actors (CSOs), including producers´ organizations, have played a central role in the definition of the ECOWAP and in part in its implementation. They have contributed by giving it a vision and direction which resonate with the concerns of the farmers.
The participation and empowerment of civil society organizations have been brought about through coordination and consultation bodies which have been set up:
- Comité consultatif pour l’Agriculture et l’Alimentation [Consultative committee for agriculture and food]
- Comité inter départements pour l’agriculture et l’alimentation [Inter-departmental Committee for agriculture and food]
- Fonds régional pour l’agriculture et l’alimentation (ECOWADF)[Regional fund for agriculture and food]
These « task forces » enabled major consultations to take place with multi-actor involvement.
The project that supports the Zero Hunger Initiative began with the technical assistance of FAO with the objective of helping ECOWAS, the member states, the regional institutions and non-state actors to set up, in a participative way, a project for the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in the region by 2025. The mobilization and participation of all the actors in agriculture, food security and nutrition were considered as fundamental to achieve this goal.
At the same time, after 10 years since the implementation of ECOWAP, it is evident that it is now appropriate to hold a fundamental review with the different categories of actors in order to measure progress and failures in order to better delineate the future. Without question, regional agricultural policy plays a significant role in the eradication of regional hunger and malnutrition.
This online discussion constitutes one of the ways adopted to allow the interested actors to put forward their opinions on the management of ECOWAP and on the regional challenges to achieving the objective of the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in West Africa by 2025.
The conclusions drawn from the discussions will be shared in the course of a workshop of civil society organizations which will take place at the beginning of November in order to summarize the conclusions and jointly analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats arising from the participation of non-state actors and to put forward some proposals for the next generation of ECOWAP, PRIA [Programmes régionaux d’investissement agricole, Regional Program for Agricultural investment] and PNIA [programmes nationaux d’investissements agricoles, National Program for Agricultural Investments] .
Specifically, the November workshop «aims to take stock of, analyze and document the present state of institutional governance, in particular the level of representation/participation of non-state actors in the governance of agricultural policies, programs and investments in West Africa, to identify the critical requirements for change that should be taken into account in the readjustments to the new generation of ECOWAP/PRIA/PNIA in order to achieve Zero Hunger by 2025. »
We invite you to give your opinion on the three questions that will be debated in the November civil society organizations workshop:
- What would be effective and efficient regional governance for Food Security and Nutrition in West Africa?
- What will be the role and place of the non-state actors /civil society organizations (level of representation and participation in the decisions) in the official enactments of the implementation of ECOWAP, agricultural policies and NFS in general both at national and regional level?
- Which multi-actors and multi-sector platform should be used to facilitate dialogue and negotiations on policies, programs and investments, accountability, etc.?
All stakeholders are invited to this discussion; contributions received on line will be highly valued and will contribute to strengthening the contribution of civil society organizations towards the objective of Zero Hunger in West Africa by 2025.
Facilitator of the discussion
 Farming in the broad sense of the term includes vegetable production, animal production in all its forms, including pastoralism as a way of life, fishing and forestry exploitation.