Food security and agricultural experts are meeting in Accra to brainstorm over the West African food security situation, which many believe may soon degenerate into a major crisis.
The three-day special meeting, under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), will include a training session for representatives from the 15 sub-regional countries. The meeting, that began on Monday in Accra, Ghana, will also discuss the best approaches within the medium term and long term to deal with the situation.
The West African region has been hit by low and erratic rainfall and insect infestations, which have led to poor harvests and lack of pasture in parts of Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Communities in these countries are also dealing with high food prices and reduced cash flow.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies had already released over £500,000 to help 70,000 people, in advance of the full assessments of the affected countries.
In Mauritania, for instance, where assessments have already been completed, the Red Cross plans to help over 10,000 households for the next year.
The Accra meeting will review emerging challenges in funding, food availability, accessibility and other agricultural issues as well as the issue of climate change.
Maria Helena Senedo, Assistant Director-General, Regional Representative for Africa, FAO, said the meeting would also enhance the FAO West Africa Office’s operational and managerial capacities for informed programme planning and effective delivery.
Senedo said it was important that a multi-disciplinary approach be adopted to programmes and identify priority areas of action for the Organisation in the sub-region.
FAO wants to achieve by 2015 in the sub region, sustained rural poverty reduction and food security through a broad-based growth on agricultural production, productivity and diversification as well as household incomes, with focus on small holders and vulnerable groups.
In addition it aims to thoroughly address the pervasive gender inequalities, the marginalisation of minority groups as well as the inequalities between territories, areas and countries.
As part of the measures, Senedo at the meeting, suggested increases in investment in the agricultural sectors of countries and provision of improved seeds and other agricultural supplies and equipment to farmers for expanded cultivation of food crops.
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