Co-funded by the German Government and the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the three-year project will support ECOWAS and its member countries in working towards a Hunger-free West Africa by building on existing policies and programs, increasing stakeholder engagement and amplifying the current political commitment in the region.
Germany is providing $2.4 million and ECOWAS has announced its commitment to co-fund the initiative and to ensure adequate participation of all member countries.
Several ECOWAS countries saw a steady reduction in hunger numbers until 2006-2008 but progress has slowed since. The food price crisis in 2008 and a drought-triggered emergency in the Sahel earlier this year, when up to 19 million people were at risk of food insecurity, showed that countries struggle to maintain lower figures of undernourishment and malnutrition in times of stress and external shocks.
The project will work with countries and regional organization to increase commitment and collaboration among key decision-makers of all sectors. This involves awareness raising and advocacy, and the establishment and strengthening of multi-stakeholder partnerships that promote monitoring and accountability.
The renewed political commitment is expected to translate into increased budget allocations to food and nutrition security in West African countries and to facilitate pro-poor private investment.
The hunger-free initiative will support ECOWAS in the implementation of the Regional Partnership Compact for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP). Of particular importance will be the closer integration of nutrition into national and regional agriculture investment policies, improved coordination for food and nutrition security and strategies on combining social protection and agriculture.
"The project will be crucial for hunger eradication as it will integratethe right to food into national CAADP initiatives." It was only a start he continued, but "it has the potential to become a model for other regions of Africa and Asia,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We need more cooperation among governments and the active involvement of political leaders, civil society, academia, development partners and others throughout the region.”
He noted that whereas hunger declined at global level over the last 20 years, it had risen in sub-Saharan Africa from 170 million to 234 million.
"We need to reverse this situation. But it's not only about more funds, it's about working together and focusing better our efforts in areas where we can really make a difference,” da Silva said. "When we stand together we can make a difference.”
At the project launch Lapodini Atouga, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water, noted that the project was aligned with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Zero Hunger Challenge and involved civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders in working for food security.
Ilse Aigner, German Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection recalled that FAO and Germany were already implementing a food security initiative in Sierra Leone and that the new project now extends this partnership to Western Africa.
The Hunger-free Initiative for West Africa was launched in the framework of the existing Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. It builds on the Hunger Free for Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative, which created the conditions for eradicating hunger permanently in the region by 2025.