In many parts of the world, the recent food crises of 2007/08 and 2010 brought about an awareness of the need to break from the rationale that prevailed until then and was based on the extreme liberalization of agricultural trade. In Western Africa, this awareness resulted in the revival of the ECOWAP, the Common Agricultural Policy of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), that has attracted renewed interest since 2008. In an article1
published by the October 2012 issue of Passerelles Synthèse
, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD
) reviews the most recent developments of this regional agricultural policy. We highly recommend the article, which tracks the progress made regarding the ECOWAP three major advances: the implementation of regional reserves for food security, the “Zero Hunger” initiative and the regional rice offensive. These various initiatives denote promising advances for the region, insofar as they possibly pave the way for the implementation of genuine market regulation mechanisms, which incidentally have been included in the documents of the creation and implementation of ECOWAP. According to the ECOWAP initial objectives, these regulatory mechanisms must improve the area’s lasting food security, and especially ensure sufficiently stable and lucrative incomes to farmers. In fact, it is clear that farmers––whether they live in France, in the United States or in Western Africa––are confronted to similar problematic issues, particularly agricultural price hyper-volatility. Faced with such a challenge, only regulatory market mechanisms that adequately stabilize agricultural prices will allow farmers to lastingly develop their activities and meet the growing food requirements of populations.
momagri Editorial Board
With ECOWAS acting as the main driver, a meeting of the technical committee for agriculture, the environment and water resources was held on September 24 to 26 in Abidjan. Following the October 2011 decision made in Dakar to implement regional reserves for food security in response to the serious food crisis that keeps getting worse in Western Africa. Among others, the various objectives of the meeting were the examination of the detailed technical proposal on the formation of regional reserves for food security, and the draft of regulations on fertilizers. The meeting provided participants the opportunity to research the relevance and directions of the two initiatives presented by ECOWAS to speed up the implementation of the ECOWAP––the regional rice offensive and the “Zero Hunger” initiative in Western Africa. Participants also used the meeting to review the agricultural and food situation in the ECOWAS region.
Validating the project of regional reserves for food security
and the draft on regulations on fertilizers
The project of regional reserves was designed as a third defense line in addition to the national stock strategies that include proximity stocks and national food security stocks. The reserves, which must resolve temporary food crises whose frequency and size are increasing in the area, should be supplemented by a market regulation policy, whose instruments are currently being designed. Three specific objectives have been assigned to this policy. It starts with supplementing the efforts of member states to provide a rapid and diversified food and nutrition assistance. Then, the project of regional reserves is used to build upon the regional solidarity towards member states and affected people through transparent, fair and predictable mechanisms. Lastly, it must contribute to Western Africa’s food sovereignty as well as political, economic and trade integration.
From a quantitative point of view, the reserves will involve an intervention capability of 410,000 tons to be broken down as follows: a 140,000-ton physical reserve made of a classified range of storable and standardized products corresponding to the main food systems in the various sub-regions, and a financial reserve equivalent to 270,000 tons. This reserve will be progressively built up, with a first phase in 2013––accumulation of 60,000 tons for physical stocks¬ and 120,000 tons for financial reserves––followed by a second phase starting in 2017.
The institutional framework includes a clearly assumed leadership and responsibility by the ECOWAS. It closely associates the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the CILSS (Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel), farming organizations and civil society entities, in the guidance, steering, decision-making, and follow-up/evaluation bodies. Il also foresees mechanisms for a dialogue with international community partners. A special unit within the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food will carry out the technical management of the reserves. As far as the regulatory framework on fertilizers is concerned (among which the project of regulations to control the quality of fertilizers in the ECOWAS area, and the draft of the implementing regulation concerning the duties, organization and management of the Western African Committee on Fertilizer Control), the validation work involved a thorough analysis of each draft texts submitted.
Following both analysis and adjustment, the participants validated the various texts and made the following recommendations: improving fertilizer use in the ECOWAS area; increasing support for research and training regarding fertilizers in member states; strengthening the capabilities of reference laboratories recognized to control the quality of fertilizers in the ECOWAS area; boosting the technical requirements for transporting and stocking fertilizers; and pursuing the implementation of national committees in charge of fertilizer control.
Speeding up the ECOWAP implantation:
The regional rice offensive and the “Zero Hunger” initiative
The initiative to introduce an offensive to restart Western African rice growing was launched in the framework of a more rapid implementation of ECOWAP. The key goal is to supplement and coordinate all initiatives and regional development strategies for rice growing, so that production systems are modernized, rural people’s incomes are improved, member states’ food dependence is curbed, and thus significantly contribute in achieving regional food sovereignty. The participants also paid tribute to this timely initiative to supplement the measures implemented by various states to face the consequences of the 2008 crisis generated by soaring commodity prices.
Three intervention issues are targeted. They apply to fostering production, enhancing local production, encouraging a favorable environment to develop regional rice growing.
The Western African “Zero Hunger” initiative also concerns accelerating the implementation of ECOWAP. It targets a very bold objective: eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2020. The area plans to follow the Brazilian approach, which significantly reduced hunger and malnutrition thanks to a similar offensive. In order to secure ownership of the initiative and assume its leadership, participants made recommendations to organize high-level regional decision-makers. Participants also plan to use this initiative towards reforming the governance system for food security and nutrition, by working on three focal points: first, a strong implication of the local population; second, the approval of an inter-sectorial approach to coherently work on strengthening sustainable livelihoods for poor households and the establishment of social safety nets, and third, a solid interaction between short-term and medium- and long-term measures.
1 Issue 8 of Volume 13, http://ictsd.org/i/news/passerellessynthese/147999/