Accra-Ghana — A four-day workshop to examine women's role in the search for food sovereignty in West Africa through their involvement in the ECOWAS Regional Agriculture Investment Plan will begin on Tuesday, 22nd May in Accra, Ghana. Participants at the workshop will seek to achieve a better understanding of the contribution of men and women to the strategic food chains as identified in the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Investment Programme, towards ensuring a better integration of gender concerns into the regional agricultural investment plan.
The regional agricultural investment plan is built around three specific objectives which are: promotion of strategic products conducive to food sovereignty; promotion of a global environment conducive to regional agricultural development; as well as the reduction of vulnerability and the promotion of the population's sustainable access to food. Specifically, participants will examine the nature and pattern of participation of men and women in the three identified food crops - rice, maize and cassava, for the regional agricultural investment programme. Similarly, they will also examine the nature and pattern of the participation of the sexes in the livestock-meat and fish products and their food value chains. In addition, they are expected to identify other possible investment entry points in agriculture for women farmers in the region, examine the ease and availability of credit, agricultural inputs, extension and small scale equipment to men and women farmers in West Africa as well as examine ways in which the various challenges facing women can be addressed.
The regional agricultural investment plan aims at implementing the programmes identified in the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) which was adopted by regional leaders in January 2005. It is also intended to help achieve the dream of "modernizing agriculture in favour of food sovereignty" with a view to speeding up economic growth so as to reduce poverty, contribute to a better distribution of wealth and ensure preservation of natural resources and the environment. According to the regional agriculture investment plan, achieving food sovereignty in the region requires priority work on products which enjoy a high production potential, correspond to the changing food habit of the populations and demonstrate a high level of extra-regional imports which can be replaced by enhancing the complementarities of the production basins and promoting regional trade. Rice, maize and cassava as well as livestock-meat and fish and their by- products meet these requirements.