Ministers in charge of agriculture, regional integration and trade in West Africa have launched an urgent appeal to the international community to help mobilize financial resources in support of regional initiatives to mitigate the worsening food and nutritional crises in the region.
In a 20-point eight-page communiqué at the end of their High-level inter- ministerial meeting on regional food crises in Lome on Tuesday 5th June 2012, the ministers estimated that some CFA 400 billion (about US$800 million) would be required to complement the efforts already deployed by the affected states, inter-governmental organizations, and financial and technical partners to address the crises.
The meeting noted that the ECOWAS Commission had already mobilized about US$9.5 million and the West African Monetary and Economic Union (UEMOA) Commission US$8 million towards mitigating the food deficiency, but insisted that more efforts were required, especially to provide significant financial assistance to three worst affected countries – Mali, Niger and Senegal.
The two Commissions should also put in place permanent humanitarian corridors to assist displaced persons in northern Mali, protect farmers and ensure effective management of seasonal livestock movement especially in the Burkina Faso-Niger-Mali zones.
While calling on financial and technical partners to assist by mobilizing resources to help vulnerable populations in the affected Sahel and West African region particularly during the lean periods, the ministers also urged governments in the region to comply with the African Union’s 2003 Maputo Declaration requiring governments to allocate a minimum of 10% of their annual national budgets to agriculture and food security.
Furthermore, the ECOWAS Commission was called upon to fast-track the Establishment in 2012, of a Regional Agency and Regional Fund for Food and Agriculture, and collaborates with the UEMOA in providing the necessary infrastructure for the improvement of food production and better living conditions for pastoral communities and Facilitate livestock movements.
Opening the one-day inter-ministerial meeting, Togo’s Prime Minister Gilbert Fessoun Houngbo had called for concerted measures to deal with the real and root causes of food crises in the region, and urged the coordinated mobilization of financial resources to ensure consistency and efficiency for the sustainable economic development of our region based on improved agricultural production.
According to him, Member States of ECOWAS, UEMOA and the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), including Chad and Mauritania, have already recorded 9% reduction in cereal production this year compared to the 2010/2011 crop season.
In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo noted that between 13 million and 16 million people were already facing food insecurity in the region, especially in the Sahel belt with nine hardest hit countries – Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, Mauritania and Chad.
The meeting, co-financed by the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, considered the report of the preceding meeting of regional experts also held in Lome on Monday 4th June.
The ministers’ recommendations will feed into upcoming summits of regional leaders for urgent regional actions.
The High-level Meetings were attended by member states of ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS, including Chad and Mauritania, as well as representatives of financial and technical partners.