Member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will need to significantly increase their investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) to achieve the aim of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty by 2015.
The focus on agricultural R&D stems from the fact that, for all ECOWAS countries, more than half of a 1% reduction in poverty at the national and rural levels can be attributed to the growth of the agricultural sector.
A study by the IITA-led Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System West Africa (ReSAKSS-WA) finds that to achieve this remarkable agricultural growth, countries in this regional bloc will have to almost double their current share of agricultural spending.
On average, an agricultural funding growth rate of 18.3% is required to achieve the target 6% rate set out by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). However, successful reform of public institutions could lower this share substantially, according to a report by Mbaye Yade and colleagues.
CAADP was initiated in 2002 by the African Union. It is a strategic framework which guides the development efforts and partnerships of African countries in the agricultural sector. It has, among others, the following objectives and principles at its core: agriculture-led growth for poverty reduction; increased funding for agriculture (10%), and at least 6% agriculture growth, all aimed at achieving MDG1 and other welfare targets; greater efficiency and consistency in the planning and execution of sector policies and programs; increased effectiveness in translating government expenditure into public goods and services; and expertise and mechanisms to measure performance against objectives regularly and transparently, and keep policies and programs on track.
ReSAKSS-WA works with ECOWAS to provide strategic analysis, knowledge management and communications, and capacity strengthening, towards achieving the aims of CAADP.
To promote monitoring and evaluation, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africaâ€™s Development requested ReSAKSS to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework which would guide the continent in implementing CAADP.
Working with national and international partners, ReSAKSS has since backstopped some member countries in developing their National Agricultural Investment Programs (NAIPs) with this aim in view.
The ReSAKSS study shows that, under current trends, expected performance in agricultural growth is projected to stabilize at around 4.4% by 2015. However, with the successful implementation of emerging national strategies for the sector, agricultural growth is expected to increase to 6.4% from 4.6% under a business-as-usual scenario. Even the CAADP target of 6% annual agricultural growth for each country is not sufficient to achieve MDG1 by 2015, except for BÃ©nin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, and Senegal. Therefore, other plans with additional efforts are projected for the other countries.
The first M&E report from ReSAKSS indicated that the average share of agriculture in the 2005â€“2008 period was 10% and above in Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. It was below 10% in BÃ©nin, Gambia, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and CÃ´te dâ€™Ivoire. With regard to the planned 6% growth in agriculture, the average rate for Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone in the 2003â€“2007 period was 6% and above. For all other West African countries, the average was below 6%. Apart from the incidence of stunting among children, all major indicators of welfare show an overall improvement in living standards in the 2000s compared with the 1990s.
The incidence of poverty using the international threshold for comparisonâ€”the US$1/person/dayâ€”decreased by 18% in the 2000s compared with the 1990s. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 35% between 1990 and 2008. The Global Hunger Index shows a 14% decrease from the 1990â€“2009 value. Overall, it seems that recent trends in welfare have been positive in West Africa.
What the future holds
Regional Agricultural Investment Programs (RAIP) under CAADP are being prepared and will be funded through various mechanisms. IITA should work closely with the regional economic communities or RECs in preparing such programs because of the Instituteâ€™s wealth of experience in R4D work aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in Africa, in particular with ECOWAS in priority crops, such as cassava, maize, and rice. Already some discussions are taking place but these should be increased. Given the poverty challenges facing West Africa and Africa in general, all avenues for productive collaboration should be explored.
To implement the Africa-wide M&E system, the system has to be adapted in each West African country. Two requirements for this are the establishment of a SAKSS in each country, and consequently, the inclusion of the M&E indicators in the SAKSS and countryâ€™s annual reports and surveys.
This would make M&E a routine and important activity carried out annually. In turn, this would provide each country with the opportunity to ascertain how much progress is being made and to change the aspects of a strategy that are not working in a timely manner.