The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is undertaking efforts to accelerate the implementation of their regional agricultural policy, the ECOWAP/Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Programme (CAADP), and its related regional and national investment plans. In that context, ministers of the 15 ECOWAS member states are scheduled to get together from 16 to 20 September for the Agriculture/Environment/Water Resources Specialised Ministerial Committee.
They’ll meet in Lomé, Togo, for the long awaited launch of the Regional Food and Agriculture Agency housed there, which is being created to facilitate the implementation of regional ECOWAP/CAADP initiatives. The ministerial meeting is expected to also validate a select number of major regional programmes to be implemented by that agency, such as the Regional Agricultural Intensification and Pastoral Development Programme, the Regional Market Regulation Programme and the Social Safety Net Programme. Furthermore, the Ministers will review the status of implementation of the ECOWAP/CAADP regional and national investment plans, to identify measures to further accelerate ECOWAP/CAADP implementation at national and regional levels.
Interestingly, ECOWAS member states have invited Non State Actors to present to the Specialised Ministerial Committee in September their experience in participating in the ECOWAP/CAADP process and their analysis of results on the commitments made by their heads of state in the AU Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security ten years back, which inspired the ECOWAP/CAADP process. The invitation is specifically addressed to regional structures like the Platform of Civil Society Organisations in West Africa (POSCAO) and the Regional Farmers’ Organisation (ROPPA).
It came in response to an ongoing initiative of ROPPA and a number of partner organisations in the region and beyond, including ECDPM, to assess progress in West Africa 10 years after the adoption of the Maputo Declaration. It involves studies in 10 ECOWAS countries and a regional report, feeding into a conference from 11 to 14 September in Monrovia, Liberia (for those interested, save the date!). Through this initiative, ROPPA and its partners seek to contribute to evidence-based constructive policy dialogues among key stakeholders to further West Africa’s agricultural development and food security agenda.
Spending on Agriculture
One element that the country studies examine is delivery on the well-known Maputo commitment to dedicate at least 10% of national public expenditures to agriculture. Data collected through the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) indicates that 5 out of 15 West African countries are above the 10% threshold on average in the period 2008-2011, that is Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal. While the region can hardly be lauded for only one third of its member states living up to this commitment, West Africa scores still relatively well compared to other regions. However, great caution is warranted when presenting, interpreting and comparing agricultural public expenditure figures, since the quality of the data and classification of expenditures may differ between countries. What is evident, although it often gets downplayed due to the attractive but dangerous simplicity of the 10%, is that not only volumes but also the quality of expenditures count.
In this light, the ROPPA country studies not only examine delivery on the 10%, but also explore agricultural policies and programmes and institutional changes, as well as changes in agricultural productivity, poverty and the food security situation that have taken place during the post-Maputo period. While important, ECOWAP/CAADP is indeed about far more than the mere level of public spending on agriculture. This is well illustrated by enumerations by government officials of what ECOWAP/CAADP has brought their countries, when asked that question at an ECOWAS workshop in June in Ougadougou in preparation of the September ministerial meeting. Some points they mentioned:
While such self-assessments provide valuable insights, I concur with one of the officials who called for more accountability on ECOWAP implementation at regional and national levels, particularly by also having others assess what’s done and achieved. The ROPPA initiative in collaboration with ECDPM and others answers to this call. The fact that the regional institutions and its member states are open to such initiatives, for example by exposing ministers to the findings, is an important tool to accelerate ECOWAP/CAADP implementation.
The findings of the country and regional studies will be made public ahead of the September conference, keep an eye on our website.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and may not necessarily represent those of ECDPM.
There is certainly more heightened interest in agricultural development from many more stakeholders than ever before. Is it not curious that trade unions, especially agricultural trade unions, appear to be conspicuously missing from CAADP processes?