Food and Power
There is no doubt that food insecurity remains a huge concern for West Africans. A report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) revealed that we are far from realizing the Millennium Development Goal No.1, which has to do with halving the number of hungry people globally by 2015. In this sense, the whole question of vulnerability of the people to hunger and starvation in the region will remain ever-present. In fact, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the right of food, Oliver de Schutter drew attention to the prevailing situation when he argued that: “If most poor countries are still very vulnerable, it is because their food security depends too much on food imports whose prices are increas-ingly high and volatile”. As it is presently, there are several countries within the region who depend heavily on the import of agricultural products such as rice, tomatoes, onions and maize as a result of a
breakdown of the structures of agricultural production.
While heavy rainfall have led to devastating floods in Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal leaving more than half a million people displaced, there is huge concern about the upcoming food crisis in the region, which is associated with nutritional conditions of people in these flood devastated areas, rising prices of food, which might lead to limited access to balanced diet. It has also been reported that of the total of underfed people globally, at least one-fourth live in Africa. More so that the West African region is one that has witnessed a steady decrease in agricultural production in the last three decades despite the huge natural resources and internal market.
There is a sense in which food security in West Africa in the future will depend largely on following factors continues and stable rainfall, ability and capacity to effectively control locust and parasitic inva-sion/infection on farmlands and crops, as well as effective commu-nity level peacebuilding structures to mitigate farmers/pastoralist confrontations. In securing the future, addressing the challenges of food insecurity in West Africa involves strengthened capacities in research and development, instituting a more robust and universal system for forecasting crop prices, investment in high-tech-assisted precision farming such as iGreen, as well as taking advantage of the abundant agricultural biomass in the region for biomass production.
Investment in agriculture by governments across the region, remain a critical step in matching words with action on addressing food insecurity. Within the framework of a unified policy on agricul-ture in the region, West African governments should renew their commitments of devoting 10% of their national budgets to agricul-ture and rural transformation, coupled with access to national and regional market, which should be pursued by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).