Three Priority Intervention Areas to Provide West Africans with Sufficient, Affordable, and Nutritious Food in the Long Term

WASHINGTON: According to the Food Crisis Prevention Network, a record 18.6 million people are currently in need of food assistance in West Africa. While urgent and immediate humanitarian action is necessary to protect vulnerable populations, a new World Bank and FAO publication offers fresh thinking for dealing with both the challenges and opportunities resulting from accelerating long-term trends including climate change, growing populations, urbanization, changing consumption habits and technological advances.

With its results being collectively owned by key regional institutions, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS), the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research (CORAF), and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the report titled “A Blueprint for Strengthening Food System Resilience in West Africa: Regional Priority Intervention Areas” reflects a broad consensus across regional stakeholders.

The report identifies three interconnected priority areas for simultaneous intervention at regional level that are critical to provide West Africans with sufficient, affordable, and nutritious food in the medium to longer term: strengthening the food system’s productive base, by promoting climate smart agriculture at farm and landscape levels; promoting an enabling environment for intra-regional value chain development and trade facilitation, and enhancing regional risk management architecture and farmers’ decision support tools.

For each intervention area, the report proposes a set of regional flagship initiatives, with specified sets of activities, delivery mechanisms, roles for partners and other operational aspects. A highly interactive virtual stakeholder conference bringing together 400 participants from across West Africa critically informed the identification of these initiatives. Selected examples include:

  • Accelerating the evolution of the regional agricultural innovation system by building on the foundations laid by the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), by developing regional expertise in cross-cutting areas such as mechanization and natural resources management to complement the existing network of specialized institutions;
  • Establishing a regionally owned scorecard mechanism on countries’ performance on trade policy implementation within the ECOWAS sub-region to increase countries’ mutual accountability and set incentives to reduce persisting barriers to agri-food trade and expand market opportunities for producers and traders alike; and
  • Strengthening institutional capacity and public-private engagement to provide farmers with tailored agronomic advice and weather information, by making use of the exploding coverage of digital technologies in the region.

Several flagship initiatives are already earmarked for possible financing through operations currently under preparation, most notably the proposed West Africa Regional Food System Resilience Program (FSRP) to be funded by the World Bank. Other partners are expected to come on board to finance other regional flagship initiatives.

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