ECOWAS launches regional agency for agriculture and food security
ECOWAS has taken a major step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on food security by establishing a Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food (RAAF), with headquarters in Lomé, Togo.
The agency, which is charged with implementing the technical aspects of the regional investment programmes and plans on agriculture, forestry and livestock in the region was launched on 27 September 2013 at a ceremony presided over by Togo’s Prime Minister Kwesi Séléagodji Ahoomey-Zunu.
Ministers of Agriculture of ECOWAS Member States, who were holding their annual meeting in the Togolese capital on the West African Agriculture, Food and Nutrition situation, also participated in the ceremony.
In his speech, the Prime Minister lamented the “inadequate financial resources allocated by leaders to agriculture, which ironically, contributes more than 75% of the livelihood of our people.”
He called for a strong political will to carry through the commitment made by African Heads of State and Government in Maputo in 2003, to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture towards achieving a minimum 6% annual growth rate in the sector.
The Ministers at their meeting adopted and validated three new regional programmes initiated by ECOWAS as part of measures for the implementation of the regional agricultural policy aimed at reducing poverty and hunger in the region.
One of them, the Regional Market Regulation Support Programme in West Africa (RMRSPWA) seeks to promote the establishment of food sovereignty through free flow and regulation of intra-regional market for agri-food products.
On the other hand, the Regional Social Safety Net Support Programme is aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the region to food and nutrition insecurity. It also seeks to promote sustainable access to food in the ECOWAS region.
Lastly, the Regional Support Programme for Intensification of Agricultural and Pastoral Development in West Africa aims to promote strategic food products to ensure food security and sovereignty. It is expected that the implementation of this programme would accelerate the economic growth, improve farmers’ income, reduce the poverty threshold and preserve the environment.
In a final communiqué at the end of their meeting, the Agriculture Ministers also urged ECOWAS to develop strategies for the effective participation of the private sector in providing funds for the development of agriculture.
They further recommended the establishment of simple mechanisms to facilitate access to funds by family holdings as well as the implementation of the regional Common External Tariff (CET) to protect local production and provide the region with a common vision on genetically modified organisms.
The meeting also urged ECOWAS to ensure that a portion of the Community Levy is devoted to fund regional programmes and projects on agriculture, including an annual grant to Member State to boost national food security stocks.
The ministers equally called on Member States to strengthen their efforts and ensure the implementation of the Maputo declaration on the allocation of more resources to the agricultural sector. Member States were also requested to ensure that at least 50% purchase is allocated to local farmers’ organisations in the regional food reserve.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Dr.
Lapodini Marc Atouga, representatives of technical and financial partners, as well as civil society and professional organisations such as the West African Farmers’ Organization also participated in the meeting