Agriculture is one of the main drivers of Togo’s economy, with farmers engaged in both commercial and subsistence farming. Cotton is one of the cash crops grown, but the steep drop in global cotton prices in recent years dealt a blow to many farmers.
About a third of this West African nation’s 5.7 million people live below the poverty line. According to the latest figures from the World Food Programme’s comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis, 47 percent of the rural population is food insecure, while 37 percent is at risk of food insecurity.
Population growth in Togo has outpaced the country’s ability to produce enough staple grains to meet demands, with many small farmers unable to access seeds and fertilizers in time for the planting season. This, along with the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the lack of income diversification, has heightened the food and economic insecurity of the country’s rural poor.
Flood damage and high food prices
An already precarious food security situation was aggravated by flooding in the Savane region in 2007, which wiped out many crops and killed livestock. Malnutrition rates are high in this northern region, considered the country’s poorest.
A year later, heavy rains lashed much of Togo’s southern regions, causing flooding and crop and infrastructure damage.
Shortages of staples such as maize, rice and sorghum coupled with soaring food and fuel prices in 2008 only made matters worse.
European Union Food Facility
In June 2009, FAO launched an 18-month project to help the Togolese government scale up food production by improving the supply of quality inputs and technical assistance to vulnerable farming families.
With nearly € 2.5 million from the European Union, 15 000 small cereal-growing farmers are receiving improved seed varieties, fertilizers and insecticides for the 2009 and 2010 cropping seasons. Boosting the production of maize, sorghum and rice will help bolster the country’s cereal supplies and lessen its dependence on expensive imports.
Around 5 000 farmers are receiving inputs to grow market gardens during the off-season to improve their incomes and food and nutrition security.
To ensure small farmers in Togo have access to certified seeds in the long run, the project is working to put in place an efficient seed production and distribution system. Farmers will also benefit from follow-up and technical supervision.
The project aims to create conditions that will encourage greater competitiveness in grain production in the country.
FAO is working closely with Togo’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and various national and international NGOs to implement this project, which is in line with national food security and poverty reduction strategies.
Other FAO activities
FAO, through its Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP), launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project in Togo in July 2008 to assist poor households struggling to cope with high food prices. Around 1 600 rural farming families received seed and tool kits and technical assistance to help them boost production of soya beans and niebé and replenish their seed stocks.
Togo also benefited from a regional TCP aimed at strengthening West African countries’ capacities to monitor and evaluate food prices in the sub-region, harmonize policies and procedures on trade, and take appropriate action to offset the impact of rising food prices.