Agriculture dominates the economies of most West African countries, being the key employer and major source of income and exports. While West Africa is the sub-region in Africa with the lowest prevalence of undernourishment, the majority of West Africa’s poor are concentrated in rural areas.
Access to food is a human right: “All people, at all times, should have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, World Food Summit Plan of Action, 1996).
Reducing poverty in West Africa
The church of God has a mandate to increase the social, spiritual and economic development of its members as well as the societies in which they live. It is evident that governments cannot put food on the table for their people but can put in place structures including infrastructures and policies to enhance their ability to provide food for themselves. Because food is considered a basic human right, governments should do everything conceivable to work towards enabling people to provide food for themselves.
To make this happen, FECCIWA is campaigning for the reform of policies on agricultural development to ensure that people have access to food. FECCIWA is running an advocacy campaign to increase agricultural production, to overcome extreme hunger and to improve the livelihoods of low-income people so that they can live in dignity.
Globalisation is threatening food security
With its diverse agro-ecological zones, West Africa has the potential to produce a diverse range of agricultural foodstuffs. But globalisation has had various negative effects on food consumption. Due to the increased importation of food, the system of food production and consumption patterns have almost been destroyed. Moreover, there is a general tendency to neglect and under-utilize traditional food systems in spite of the diversity of food in the region and its relative abundance. Agricultural productivity has declined in the sub-region due to policy reform and a lack of support for the promotion of local products. This plays a crucial and vital role in the food security, nutrition and health of rural populations.
'Grow what you eat – Eat what you grow'
FECCIWA is therefore supporting local products to decrease hunger and poverty in West Africa. Scientists keep pointing out that the ecosystems in the region provide a wide range of food that can be mobilized to increase the availability of food, facilitate the food choices of households and therefore ensure food diversity for better nutrition. Factors influencing the consumption of traditional foods include cultural attitudes and practices. Therefore FECCIWA is urging governments in the sub-region to take measures to increase sustainable agricultural productivity to ensure the availability and accessibility of traditional food. FECCIWA is aware that the demand for traditional foods exists but that there is a need to further stimulate demand by increasing awareness of the nutritional value of local foods, focusing on their effects on health and taking into account quality and safety issues.
Increasing food security
FECCIWA supports the national Christian councils and churches in advocating with their respective governments to improve food security in West Africa. In our campaign 'Grow what you eat – Eat what you grow - we are focussing our efforts on the following areas:
- Fighting hunger and poverty by supporting small-holder farmers in adopting sustainable production and consumption practices in West Africa
- Co-operating with decision-makers to change legislation to encourage farmers to produce local food
- Ending dumping of cheap imported leftovers such as chicken, meats, tinned tomatoes and expired eggs on West African markets
- Supporting farmers to get access to appropriate technology needed to improve and increase production of traditional foods.
- Church leaders are holding governments accountable to their commitment to allocate 10% of their annual national budgets to agriculture and rural development made in the Maputo 2001 Declaration
- Furthermore, church leaders are monitoring national and regional policies on agriculture to overcome hunger in West Africa
- Holding governments accountable to support farmers in terms of:
- Seeking new and adaptable technologies
- Implementing micro-credit systems to allow farmers to have access to new farm technologies
- Financing research studies on how to improve soils, seeds and appropriate fertilizers
- Implementing grain banks locally managed by communities to combat price volatility in markets during hunger crises.
Achieving our goals
In its efforts to change policies in order to secure food security in West Africa, FECCIWA co-operates with:
- ECOWAS – The Economic Community of West African States
- ROPPA – Agricultural producers organisations of West Africa
- African Union Heads of State
- The European Union
- Agricultural ministers and parliamentarians of the West African states
To assure the participation of all stakeholders we are working together with:
- Civil society members
- Farmers‘ associations
- Local farmers
- Forest dwellers
- Grass-roots communities
We would like to thank our partners for supporting our work. The funds our donors provide are used carefully to advocate for food security. We are grateful for your help and hope you will continue to provide assistance so that we can continue our activities.
We particularly acknowledge the support of:
- Church Development Service (EED), Bonn, Germany
- Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, Geneva, Switzerland
- University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany