The Deputy Majority Leader in Ghana’s Parliament and a Member of the ECOWAS Parliament, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, has disclosed that member countries of the regional economic body are currently confronted with an unprecedented food crisis.
According to him, this has rendered about 17 million people in need of immediate assistance and an additional 51 million persons, including women and children, under pressure.
He added that food insecurity is still a major challenge in the region and out of its 308 million inhabitants, 40 million people are undernourished and suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Mr. Afenyo-Markin said though ECOWAS has adopted pragmatic steps to tackle the challenge to the best of its ability, the 51 million inhabitants under food crisis pressure in the region could lapse into a crisis phase.
He made the remarks when he addressed participants at the International Conference on Food Insecurity held in Rabat, in the Kingdom of Morocco, on Thursday, July 7, 2022.
His address noted that ECOWAS, in response to the food crisis challenge, adopted a strategy aimed at the modernization of agriculture to achieve self-sufficiency and food security at the regional level.
He disclosed that the strategy was in the form of a common Ten-Year Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) from the year 2005 to the year 2015, to provide a regional response to the food-related challenges.
After 2015, ECOWAS continued a second phase of the policy, ECOWAP II, which started in the year 2016 and would run till 2025.
Afenyo-Markin said that despite the initiatives adopted by ECOWAS, “food and nutrition insecurity are further exacerbated by the phenomenal population with increased rural to urban migration putting more pressure and increased demand for food in urban areas. This, at the same time, is depopulating the rural and farming communities with able-bodied youths to grow sufficient food and other agricultural produce. If this trend continues, countries in our region will have to double their current food production.”
He continued: “the effect of Climate Change is also aggravating the food and nutrition insecurity in our region. The region is witnessing rapid deforestation and desertification of a significant portion of its fertile agricultural land. This situation, coupled with the persistent shortfall in the quantity and duration of rainfall, is greatly impacting agricultural production and productivity.”
He further noted that “other climate change-related phenomenon like depletion of both surface and underground water resources, coastal erosion, high temperatures and various pollution and green house gas emissions are also greatly contributing to the food and nutrition insecurity for our countries. Furthermore, scarcity of natural resources, low chemical and fertilizer inputs, and inadequate technologies are aggravating the food and nutrition insecurity.”
Another initiative adopted by ECOWAS was when in 2021, it organised an international conference to share with its partners and the other regions of the world, the experience of its regional food security storage system.
The overall objective, he said, was to lay the foundation for a renewed multilateral partnership.
“It was also aimed at strengthening a sustainable resilience of the West African Food Security Storage System and its capacity to respond effectively to the amplification and complexity of food, nutrition, and pastoral crises in the region.”
“After 5 years of implementation of the Support Project, an internal capitalization of the results made it possible to systematize important achievements, challenges and lessons learned for scaling up to make the Regional Food Security Storage Strategy, a pivotal instrument for the elimination of hunger in the region by 2030.”
“A major strategy which ECOWAS is currently implementing is the creation of Food Reserve Banks, at both regional and country levels. Food and agricultural produce are reserved in these food banks and distributed to food deficit areas”, Afenyo-Markin added.
The Conference was jointly hosted by the House of Councillors of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
Afenyo-Markin, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee of ECOWAS Parliament, led the official delegation from the West African body to attend the international conference in Morocco.
The ECOWAS delegation comprised Honourable Billy G. Tunkara the Majority Leader of Gambia’s Parliament and Mr. Fily Dialo from Nigeria, Senior Protocol Assistant of the ECOWAS Parliament.
The Conference was under the theme: “Sovereignty and food security, between the challenges of the international situation and the challenges of strategic security”.
The motive was to deepen broad stakeholder dialogue on the issues of food security and to examine ways and mechanisms to confront the challenge of achieving sovereignty and food security in the context of the major transformations that the world is experiencing due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other global conflicts.