West Africa on the move to accelerate the implementation of its Regional Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP)

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      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:

      • More consultative and participatory processes: Many pointed out that it has enhanced dialogues between state and Non-State Actors (civil society organisations, farmers’ organisations, private sector) in agricultural policy-making processes. The Ghana representative stated even more strongly that the government now acknowledges that it can’t go at it alone if it genuinely wants to reach the country’s agricultural policy objectives. Yet it was emphasized by some that there are still steps to be made to further strengthen the involvement of non-state actors, particularly in the implementation and monitoring of agricultural investment plans.
      • Shift from a project to a more coherent programme and sectoral approach: Many government officials indicated that their National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIP) usefully serves as a federating document, which is a welcome shift away from a more ad hoc fragmented project approach. The representative of The Gambia illustratively labeled the country’s NAIP as a ‘one stop shop’ for agricultural investments. Nevertheless, it was also noted that the implementation of NAIPs is still confronted with overlapping parallel initiatives and the persistence of the project logic delinked from the NAIPs, not in the least due to difficulties to ensure full alignment of support of international development partners.
      • Increased private sector engagement: Some country representatives indicated that the private sector increasingly contributes to the achievements of agricultural policy and fund NAIP-related investments. Countries engaging in the G8 Global Alliance for Agriculture and Nutrition, like Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria particularly brought this to the fore, but others also mentioned it, such as Sierra Leone that has set up a private sector desk. Yet, countries pointed to insufficient expertise of officials in charge of the implementation of the NAIP to properly support pubic-private partnerships.

      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.

      TV5 has broadcast footage of the Ouagadougou workshop on the Wari economics programme

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

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