A week-long International Conference on West Africa Food Security and Storage organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission ended in Accra yesterday.
The zoom conference created the platform for 15 Agricultural Ministers from across the sub-region to share their food security storage experiences with regard to an alarming gap of food shortage affecting 4 million people in 2014 and the number expected to rise into the range of 27 million by the close of the year.
The general objective of the conference was to lay the foundation for a renewed multi-lateral partnership towards strengthening warning, prevention, intervention and humanitarian assistance mechanisms to ensure the most vulnerable population could be protected from food crisis.
The conference was hosted by Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in collaboration the ECOWAS Commission, and supported by the G20 countries with the funds from the European Union, while the French Development Agency, and Spanish International Co-operation Agency for Development, among other agencies, gave the technical support.
Closing the conference, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President, said the conference was paramount for Regional peace since hunger among any segment of the population could be detrimental to the development efforts in any country.
He said the organisers deserved commendation since the participation of the 15 Agricultural Ministers had made it clear that the regional body was committed to reversing the trend in order to have a robust food security system.
Dr Bawumia said the conference had also given the assurance that the continuous ravaging of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has exposed the vulnerability of food security and the Agricultural sector as a whole, could be handled.
Dr. Bawumiasaid it was as a result of such challenges that the government started ambitious initiatives in the agricultural sector to help boost food production in the country.
He said the flagship of those interventions, which was the Planting for Food and Jobs',had paid off to promote value addition to food products and ensured food security in the country.
He said interventions that had yielded good results included an annual distribution of farm inputs, provision of warehouses,feeder roads to the farm gates and the establishment of a commodity exchange platform to facilitate trade between farmers and the buyers.
Dr. Bawumiasaid the government had also helped to establish some greenhouses and poultry farms across the country to boost vegetables farmingand poultry, adding that about 60 warehouses had been provided for storage of food.
He said despite the gains made,challenges such as financing,post-harvest losses,pests, disease and unfavourable weather conditions remained rampant.
Dr. Bawumia said overcoming such challenges called for concerted efforts for leadership to give the needed political commitments to make agriculturea priority.
He saidit was heartwarming that most of the countries in the sub-region were endowed with abundant rain forests to propel economic development with agriculture as the driving force, adding that it called for action to share experience and build consensus on the way forward.
Dr. Bawumia said there was the need to also build the necessary resilient strategic food storage in the sub-region and make it relevant to build a capacity to insulate the system from external shocks, especially when it comes to national food security.
Dr OwusuAfriyieAkoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the participants acknowledged the potential of the storage system towards contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 2, on "Zero Hunger" and building resilience for food security in West Africa and the Sahel.
He said scaling up the regional food security initiative would create the space to promote the food value chain and inclusive growth in the sub-region.