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We Can Create Local Wealth and Jobs and Governments Should Support Family Farming More Effectively, Say West African Farmers

26-09-2013

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The Vice-President of Liberia, Joseph Boakai, the Minister of Agriculture of Liberia, Florence Chenoweth, and other West African public officials met with representatives of the Network of Peasant Organisations and Agricultural Producers in West Africa (ROPPA) in Monrovia to talk about progress in agricultural development over the past decade.

(full length interviews published below)

M. Boakai stated that his government is increasing public investment in agriculture.

However the President of ROPPA insisted that policy-makers in Liberia and other countries of the region should do more to support family farms. Djibo Bagna asserted that it is family farming that generates “local wealth and jobs. If voters realised that, governments would implement policies that support this type of agriculture.”

This event, which was organised by ROPPA and its partners, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture of Liberia from September 11th to 14th, convened representatives of the ministries of agriculture of several West African states, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the private sector, civil society organisations, researchers, and development partners.

During four days, participants debated about their assessments of the progress achieved by national and regional initiatives to promote agricultural development and improve food security conditions within the framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) launched in 2002.

Importantly, the outcomes of this dialogue and the final declaration from the farmers’ organisations, were presented to the ECOWAS Agriculture/Environment/Water Resources Specialised Ministerial Committee (SMC) from 23 to 27 September in Lomé.

Maputo at 10

The event was organised to mark the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, which aimed to accelerate the implementation of CAADP.

The key aim of the Maputo declaration was to accelerate the implementation of the CAADP. For that,

1. West African heads of state committed to implement agricultural policies supportive of smallholder farmers and fostering private sector development.
2. They also pledged to allocate at least 10 percent of national public budgets for the implementation of agricultural and rural development initiatives within five years
3. To enable private sector and civil society organisations, including those representing smallholder farmers, to participate in consultations at the national and regional levels so that they can contribute to agricultural development initiatives.

This dialogue was based, in part, on evidence from studies conducted in ten West African countries assessing public financing of the agricultural sector, institutional changes in agricultural policy-making and trends in the performance of agriculture and in food security conditions over the past decade.

These studies were conducted by ROPPA in partnership with a group of young West African researchers (REPAD), and with technical support from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Geert Laporte, Deputy Director of ECDPM gave a key note speech at the opening ceremony entitled Ten Years after the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa: Dialogue on Progress in West Africa

The studies indicated that in most of the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), governments have made notable progress in involving farmers’ organisations in the policy dialogue and in formulating sound agricultural and food security policies and programmes.


Source: Resakss

Yet, these studies also showed that only about a third of ECOWAS member states have fulfilled the commitment of the 10 per cent. For some countries, the share of public expenditures allocated to agriculture has actually declined since the Declaration of Maputo. Moreover, in spite of modest gains in agricultural productivity and a reduction in rural poverty in many countries, voices from farmers’ representatives and experts pointed to a mixed record of policy effectiveness and evoked a gap between the promises of the Maputo declaration and the reality small farmers’ lives. Family farmers have received little benefit from public investments in agriculture, and, for most of them, fertilisers, improved seeds, irrigation water and credit to invest in their farms have remained out of reach.

This dialogue was also an opportunity to exchange thoughts on approaches that would effectively support small farmers and vulnerable rural households. ROPPA representatives emphasised the need to promote access to credit so as to enable smallholder farmers to modernise their farms and increase their revenues. They also called for more investment in the sub-sectors of livestock and fisheries as they can play a greater role in fulfilling the objectives of the Maputo declaration.

Participants reiterated the necessity to better secure land access rights for family farmers and prevent large, opaque land acquisitions by international investors, so as to encourage investment on family farms.

Organisations representing women underscored their major role in agricultural production and food and nutrition security. A certain level of protection of the regional market from agricultural and food imports was also a recurring topic during the conference. With these proposals on the table, farmers’ representatives called on governments to increase public expenditures in the agricultural sector and to better target them in support of family farms.

Farmers’ representatives said that their organisations will remain actively involved in the coming months and years in supporting existing regional agricultural policy processes with the aim to promote policies and investments supporting the modernisation of family farms, and to monitor their implementation and effectiveness.

ROPPA will sustain its efforts to establish an observatory of family farms to provide better information to governments and enable them to better target family farms through public interventions. West African farmers will also strengthen their organisations and continue to participate in the implementation of national and regional agricultural policies.

The views expressed here are those of the authors, and may not necessarily represent those of ECDPM.

    

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Food SecurityContinental and Regional CAADPThe Role of the Private Sector in Agriculture and Food SecurityEconomic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA)AfricaWest Africa