The FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, Dr. Abebe Haile-Gabriel, called on ECOWAS leaders to sustain momentum and remain focused on ending hunger in the sub-region by the year 2025. This was in the statement he made on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, at the opening session of the International Conference on Agriculture in West Africa, held as part of the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the ECOWAS agricultural policy, ECOWAP, in Dakar, Senegal, from 17 to 19 November 2015.
Dr. Abebe Haile-Gabriel congratulated ECOWAS for the encouraging progress made over the last decade as evidenced by the FAO’s 2015 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in Africa report.
ECOWAS has among others reduced the proportion of hungry people by 60 percent (from 24 to 10 percent), thus achieving the MDG target on halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. With regards to the World Food Summit (WFS) goal on halving the absolute number of undernourished people, the ECOWAS region reduced the number from 45 million to 34 million people since 1990-92.
“We must recognize the fact that such encouraging results have been achieved due to real commitments and quality leadership demonstrated at all levels”, said Dr. Abebe Haile-Gabriel.
“FAO is privileged to have been associated with this exciting journey in terms of supporting the efforts of the ECOWAS Commission and its member countries through capacity development and programme delivery”, he noted, pledging “FAO’s readiness to continue to collaborate with its strategic partners in providing the necessary support to the ECOWAS Commission and its Member States, as they march towards meeting the goals of ending hunger and malnutrition by the year 2025.”
Keeping the momentum
The FAO delegation to the ECOWAS Conference in Dakar was keen on building on the encouraging achievements made over the last few years towards addressing the challenges of hunger and malnutrition in West Africa, which still remain a daunting task.
The FAO’s 2015 State of Food Insecurity report shows that some 33.7 million people remain undernourished in the West African region. Furthermore, though the number of underweight children under five years of age has declined over the last two decades, 22.2 percent of them are still underweight. Stunting, on the other hand, has stagnated as 35 percent of children under five years of age are found to be stunted.
In his conclusion, Dr. Abebe Haile-Gabriel called on the ECOWAS Commission member countries and other stakeholders to:
Reinforce and maintain the momentum of the Zero Hunger and malnutrition goal as a high level commitment of all ECOWAS countries;
Adopt an integrated approach for a sustained implementation of complementary and comprehensive food security and nutrition policies and programs to effectively make an impact on hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition;
Ensure co-ownership of the agenda of ending hunger and malnutrition among various relevant sectors, beyond agriculture ministries, and enhance multi-sectoral collaboration and coordination;
Promote effective public-private partnerships that address the challenges of modernizing agriculture as well as developing value-chains, hence creating and expanding employment opportunities for women and the youth;
Ensure effective participation of all stakeholders and set up mutual accountability systems to facilitate tracking performance and mutual learning.
The three-day International Conference on Agriculture in West Africa focused on the review of the ECOWAS agricultural policy (ECOWAP) implementation over the past 10 years; the review of the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Programme implementation, formulated and carried out under the ECOWAP; and the Sectoral Forum on “Financing the regional offensive for a sustainable and sustained revitalization of rice production in West Africa”.
FAO confirms commitment to partnering with ECOWAS
At the request of the ECOWAS Commission, FAO contributed to the review process by supporting five countries as they prepared their respective assessment reports and provided feedback on progress made, the challenges that need to be met, and proposals on the way forward, which formed the basis for FAO’s contribution made at the two panel discussions in which FAO DRR for Africa participated.
FAO also provided technical and financial support to the ECOWAP+10 thematic working group on gender in the lead up to the Conference to ensure that women’s voices are heard. With regard to the rice sector development in West Africa, FAO has reaffirmed its engagement to closely work with ECOWAS and development partners in the region to achieve the ultimate goal targeted for the region. FAO is already leading the Partnership for sustainable rice systems development in Africa in the framework of the South-South Cooperation.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)