West Africa’s diet transformation: Will the region capitalise on its changing food demand?

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, and Frank Hollinger, Economist at the Investment Centre Division (TCIA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

img_6183

Demand for food in West Africa is changing dramatically, opening great opportunities to create new wealth and jobs. But will most of the wealth and jobs be created in West Africa or in the countries that export food to the region? The decisions made over the next few years by West Africans and their development partners will largely determine who benefits from this massive opportunity and its attendant challenges.

Continue reading

Burkina Faso: Resilience building is underway

By Julia Wanjiru, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

sahel-week-banner-blog-development-mattersBurkina Faso is a poor, land-locked West African country, with about 18.5 million people, a number that is increasing fast at 3.1% per year. Categorised as a Least Developed Country (LDC), Burkina Faso regularly ranks at the bottom end of the Human Development Index (183 in 2015). Poverty is mostly rural (50.7% rural poor compared with 19.9% urban poor). Food insecurity and malnutrition remain a chronic concern (Global Acute Malnutrition = 8.6%).

acute-malnutrition-rural-areas-burkina-fasoDespite the large number of people living in poverty and the fact that the people of Burkina Faso are among the most vulnerable in the world, they also are very resilient. Continue reading

Towards a Better Understanding of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR)

By Jennifer Sheahan, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

Français suit

sahel-week-banner-blog-development-mattersThe time could not be more opportune to promote a better understanding of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR) than now, during the 2016 Sahel and West Africa Week taking place from 12-16 December in Abuja, Nigeria. This is the single most important gathering of stakeholders to discuss food and nutrition security in the region. The week provides a fitting backdrop to review and discuss resilience action.

Between October and December 2016, 10.4 million people were identified as requiring food and nutrition assistance in the Sahel and West Africa. This situation is due to a combination of multiple, interconnected factors, including a lack of food availability, limited access to food and basic social services, and the effects of health and security issues. Over a number of decades, a proliferation of initiatives, projects and programmes of a development and humanitarian nature have emerged in the region to address food and nutrition insecurity. These initiatives, often implemented in an isolated, unco-ordinated manner, outside of any overarching framework, have led to a duplication of efforts, a less than optimal use of resources and a source of competition between organisations. Continue reading

Empowering women is key to improving food security and resilience in West Africa

By Richard Clarke, Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) Secretariat

women-processing-fish
Fish processing facility in Togo

Food insecurity remains unacceptably high in West Africa. According to the Food Crisis Prevention Network, nearly 9.5 million people in the region required food assistance as well as measures to protect their livelihoods and combat malnutrition between June and August 2016, despite significant improvements since the 1990s. FAO data also shows that changing trends have seen women representing approximately 50% of the agricultural labour force on the African continent, while IFAD estimates that women contribute 89% of agricultural employment in Sahelian countries. Thus, women’s contributions to food systems across West Africa have both widespread implications and prospects for food security and resilience in the region, a subject upon which Donatella Gnisci has written a paper for the OECD/SWAC West African Papers Series.   Continue reading

Le climatologue et l’instituteur

Par Laurent Bossard, Directeur, Secrétariat du Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CSAO/OCDE)

(English version follows)

image-finding-problems-to-fit-solutionsDans le deuxième opus des Notes ouest-africaines du Secrétariat du CSAO/OCDE («Les impacts climatiques dans le Sahel et en Afrique de l’Ouest: Le rôle des sciences du climat dans l’élaboration des politiques » ), Carlo Buontempo et Kirsty Lewis du Met Office UK s’interrogent sur le rôle des sciences du climat dans la formulation des politiques.

J’avais envisagé d’intituler ce blog « Ne laissez pas les climatologues s’occuper (seuls) du changement climatique ! ». Après tout, les auteurs eux-mêmes ne soulignent-ils pas que les climatologues ne sont pas nécessairement bien équipés pour identifier les éléments essentiels du climat et du changement climatique au regard des problématiques humaines ? J’ai toutefois finalement renoncé  du fait d’une admiration sincère pour cette corporation dont la lourde tâche est de nous aider à construire un avenir meilleur pour la planète.   Continue reading

Nourrir sa population constitue le principal secteur d’activité de l’économie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest

par Laurent Bossard, Directeur, Secrétariat du Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CSAO/OCDE)

(English version follows)

Cover image FREn inaugurant la nouvelle collection  « Notes Ouest-africaines » du Secrétariat du CSAO/OCDE, T. Allen et P. Heinrigs nous proposent une réflexion sur les opportunités de l’économie alimentaire de la région. Une occasion utile et nécessaire de se tourner vers le passé pour mesurer l’ampleur des mutations du monde réel… et de celles des idées.  

Je fais partie de ceux qui ont l’âge de se souvenir de l’agriculture ouest-africaine – sahélienne en particulier – au milieu des années 1980. Nous constations – déjà – la puissance de la croissance démographique. Entre 1960 et 1985, le nombre de sahéliens avait doublé et la population urbaine avait été multipliée par cinq. Et l’agriculture ne suivait pas le rythme. Abstraction faite des aléas climatiques (on sortait de la grande sécheresse de 1983), la tendance sur 25 ans était à l’augmentation des importations à un rythme de l’ordre de 8% par an. Jacques Giri dans son livre « Le sahel face aux futurs » paru en 1987, tirait la sonnette d’alarme : « Le système de production alimentaire sahélien est demeuré très traditionnel dans son ensemble, très vulnérable à la sécheresse et peu productif : il ne s’est adapté ni en quantité, ni en qualité, aux besoins (..). La région est de plus en plus dépendante de l’extérieur et en particulier de l’aide alimentaire. Le retour à des conditions climatiques plus favorables n’a pas fait disparaître cette dépendance ».  Continue reading

AGIR: Resilience, a buzzword or a long-term commitment?

By Julia Wanjiru, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

image-AGIR-UNICEFAfter three years of consultations following the adoption of a regional roadmap for the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR), the West African region can proudly announce that all 17 Sahelian and West African countries have embarked on an ambitious process to define their national resilience priorities (NRP-AGIR). To date, six countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Togo) have validated their NRPs; five countries (Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal) are in the process of validation.

While some partners are growing impatient, others underline the quality and inclusiveness of a process that is laying the groundwork for future implementation. AGIR stakeholders took stock of progress made in developing the NRPs during the recent meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) on 15 April 2016 at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

Some national representatives are asking for additional financial support (“We have advanced well, but we need more support”), while technical and financial partners want to further improve the quality of co-ordination and are eagerly awaiting the concrete next steps in implementing the NRPs. In this context, it is worth recalling that AGIR is not just another programme or initiative. It is a policy tool which aims to channel the efforts of regional and international stakeholders toward a common results-based framework to achieve the  “Zero Hunger” goal. It is also a long-term political partnership to improve the effectiveness of Sahelian and West African resilience initiatives.

In reality, the implementation of many resilience projects has already started… and for most Sahelians and West Africans, resilience has been part of their lives for a long time.

What has been achieved since the creation of AGIR?

An affirmed, strong West African leadership is the first and maybe most important achievement. The Alliance is run under the political guidance of ECOWAS and UEMOA, with the technical support of CILSS, which hosts the AGIR Support Unit that facilitates co-ordination and supports countries in their efforts to conduct inclusive dialogues. All national governments are involved in the process. AGIR is based on existing platforms and networks, in particular the RPCA, which plays a key role in implementing the Alliance and lobbying on the international scene –  a “win-win” situation for  AGIR to capitalise on and strengthen existing networks and structures.

Improved  mobilisation of development partners. Resilience had almost disappeared from the development agenda and was powerfully re-introduced in 2012 when humanitarian and development actors recognised that recurrent food crises in the Sahel can only be tackled if the root causes of food insecurity are addressed through a systematic and long-term approach. AGIR recognises that resilience-building is necessarily a long-term endeavour that can only be achieved through full national and regional ownership; it recognises that it is not only better but cheaper to invest in prevention and preparedness of the most vulnerable populations.

All stakeholders clearly acknowledge the importance of a multi-sectoral approach, recognising that agricultural production and better functioning markets alone will not be sufficient to build the resilience of vulnerable populations. In this respect, the NRP process is not a simple copy and paste of existing policy texts. On the contrary, the NRP process provides a new reading of existing policies that goes beyond agriculture and food security concerns. It involves a large number of  different ministries and portfolios: education, health, territorial planning, rural/urban development, gender issues, etc., that all contribute to reducing vulnerability and building resilience. The efficiency of multi-sectoral approaches is broadly recognised, but the actual implementation on the ground still poses immense challenges for West African policy makers and development partners alike.

Last but not least, another important achievement is the inclusiveness of the process, with a clear effort to involve civil society representatives. Eight networks of civil society organisations have participated in the work of the Alliance since the very beginning. “They have become true ambassadors for AGIR at both the regional and international levels”, confirms CILSS Technical Unit Co-ordinator Martin Issa Bikienga. This is a good starting point; the relevance of their contributions must be further enhanced and made sustainable.

What are the next steps? What are the challenges?

The most critical next step is to finalise the NRP process in the remaining countries. The RPCA meeting conclusions urged all AGIR stakeholders to “renew their commitment to the Alliance, by: i) providing support to countries working towards the validation of their priorities; and ii) providing support and guidance to national and regional actors, to ensure an effective integration of the NRP-AGIR into the next generation of national agricultural investment plans.” It will also be important to capitalise on the three-year consultation process and identify best practices so that countries can learn from each other’s experiences, success stories and difficulties.

The few outstanding NRPs should not keep other countries from advancing. This is just the first step in a long-term dialogue process that must be pursued steadfastly if AGIR wishes to consolidate a multi-sectoral approach.

In terms of implementing the NRPs, the next step will be for countries to speed up the implementation of the identified resilience priority projects by allocating national budgets (if not already done) and mobilising their partners to cover financial gaps. Some AGIR pillars, in particular pillar 3 aimed at “sustainably improving agricultural and food production, the incomes of vulnerable households and their access to food”, could also potentially benefit from climate financing.

Lastly, AGIR needs to make further headway toward improving co-ordination and measuring impacts. It is currently impossible to get an overview of the many projects already being conducted on the ground in the region and even less to measure their impact. The RPCA has started working on resilience impact measures, and an interactive mapping tool to geo-localise the many resilience, food and nutrition initiatives is under way, with the support of the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat. This work will help monitor and evaluate the Alliance’s outcomes, as well as foster synergies and the convergence of resilience initiatives.

For many West African policy makers the resilience debate that gained international interest in 2012 was nothing new. They may not have had dedicated national resilience priorities, but resilience has always been a concern for West African governments and regional organisations.

The challenges remain enormous: whether there is a good or bad harvest, every year, the region must deal with at least 3 to 4 million chronically food insecure people. Malnutrition is a serious, permanent concern: one out of five children under five in the Sahel is undernourished. This year, almost 2 million children will be affected by the most severe form of acute malnutrition, if no appropriate measures are taken.

For those who are still sceptical and for whom resilience still sounds like a buzzword, we need to convince them that building resilience is not a passing fad but requires a very urgent, yet long-term commitment.