West Africa has potential to strengthen its agricultural sectorListen /
Boosting productivity, fostering competitiveness and ensuring that small-scale farmers have greater access to markets are key to West Africa realizing its full agricultural potential, according to a new study released Wednesday by FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The publication, Rebuilding West Africa's Food Potential, presents a range of successful case studies since the region stepped up investments in agricultural development in the wake of the world food crisis in 2007-2008.
But the book argues that countries could benefit significantly from policy support that targets broader agricultural development and greater coordination among producers, private industry and the public and financial sectors.
The book reasons that the region should direct greater efforts to develop its staple food crops, which in the past have been sidelined in favour of a few export commodities.
Maize and cassava, two of the main pillars of West Africa's food security, could form the backbone for a thriving agro-industry given their multiple market applications, the publication argues.
There is a huge production deficit in rice in the region, which currently imports an unsustainable 70 percent of what it consumes.
FAO Senior Economist Aziz Elbehri, who edited the publication, said "Although some West African countries in the region are doing better than others, the region has lagged behind other parts of Africa in terms of basic infrastructure, investments, research and development and agricultural processing."
He explained that "Farmers have little incentive to increase production if they can't sell their crops because of cheaper and easily accessible imports" and he suggested that "Policy and market incentives are needed to improve the competitiveness of locally grown crops and increase their share in the consumer market."
Donn Bobb, United Nations.