The Prime Minister of Togo, His Excellency Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, opened a
high-level inter-ministerial meeting on regional food crises in Lome on
Tuesday, 5th June 2012, with a strong appeal for urgent action to address the
root causes of recurrent food and nutritional
deficiencies in the Sahel and West Africa.
“The time has come to act, and to act in a concerted manner to deal with the
real and root causes of food crises in our region,” the Prime Minister
affirmed. “We must put in place sustainable mechanism including mobilization
of coordinated financial solutions to ensure
consistency and efficiency for the sustainable economic development of our
region based on improved agricultural production.”
He said the coordination and cooperation should be under the ECOWAS leadership
to facilitate intra-Community trade and ensure unfettered movement of food
items between countries with surplus and those facing deficiency.
The Prime Minister noted that while about 60 per cent of West Africa’s
population are involved in agriculture, a sector that also accounts for 40 per
cent of regional wealth, citizens in the region were yet to reap the benefits
of the African Union’s 2003 Maputo Declaration requiring African countries to
devote 10 per cent of national allocations to agriculture and food security.
According to him, Member States of ECOWAS, the West African Economic and
Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought
Control in the Sahel (CILSS), including Chad and Mauritania, have already
recorded nine per cent reduction in cereal production this year compared to
the 2010-2011 crop season.
The food situation, he said, had been aggravated by the political crisis in
Mali, a spill-over effect of the conflict in Libya.
In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadré
Désire Ouédraogo, called for urgent measures by Member States, financial and
technical partners to arrest food insecurity which usually reaches a peak in
July in West Africa.
Quoting figures from humanitarian agencies, he said between 13 million and 16
million people were already facing food insecurity in the region, especially
in the Sahel belt with adverse consequences on the population and seasonal
livestock movement for grazing (transhumance). The nine most affected
countries are Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The
Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Mauritania.
While commending the United Nations and various financial and technical
partners for their bilateral cooperation and support, President Ouédraogo
called for effective preventive measures, strengthening of national
agricultural investment plans, various regional programmes and robust
implementation of the ECOWAS and UEMOA agricultural policies.
The region, he said, should also intensify efforts for putting in place a
regional reserve to nip the recurring food crises in the bud.
Expressing a similar sentiment in his welcome address, the President of the
UEMOA Commission, His Excellency Cheikhe Hadjibou Soumare, noted that lack of
funding constituted the greatest hindrance to the attainment of food security
in West Africa.
He therefore called for international support for national and regional
initiatives including the work of the UEMOA high-level committee on food
security headed by the President of Niger, His Excellency Issoufou Mahamadou,
charged with proffering lasting solutions to food crises in West Africa.
The one-day inter-ministerial meeting co-financed by the ECOWAS and UEMOA
Commissions is considering the report of regional experts who met in Lome on
Monday, 4th June, and will feed into upcoming summits of regional leaders for
urgent regional actions.
The aim is to extract commitments at the highest level to ensure free movement
of foodstuffs in the region, mobilization of adequate financial resources
through increased national budgetary allocations from 2013 to finance
investment programmes, and to put in place effective preventive measures
against food insecurity in the region.
The high-level meetings attended by Member States of ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS,
including Chad and Mauritania, as well as representatives of financial and
technical partners, observed one-minute silence for victims of last Sunday’s
plane crash that killed more than 150 people in Nigeria.