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Growing food security in West Africa

Posted by Sarah Hessel Thursday, March 29, 2012

Completion workshop of the IFAD EUFF Programme in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

When the European Union launched its Food Facility (EUFF) Programme in 2009, it chose IFAD as the implementing partner for West Africa. Building on existing IFAD-supported projects and working closely with ECOWAS and ICRISAT, our colleagues have successfully implemented the 20 Million Euro programme – in only 18 month! The programme activities helped to strengthen the value chains of the production of certified seeds of rice, cassava, groundnut, yam and maize. What has started as an emergency relief programme to help the countries with the food crisis that affected the sub-region in 2008, turned out to be much more than that: By increasing the availability of high quality seeds and by training smallholder farmers in innovative production techniques, the work of EUFF Programme helped to grow food security in West Africa, not only in the short but also in the long term.


Earlier this week, the implementing partners met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss the final report and draw the lessons learned for future projects. While the final report and the capitalisation products will be available around the end of May, I have spoken to Ernest Aubee, Principal Programme Officer and Head of Agriculture at ECOWAS, Dr. Samba Traoré, who coordinated the implementation of the regional component at ICRISAT and
Adriane Del Torto, Coordinator of the EUFF Programme in West Africa at IFAD, to give you a first assessment of the programme. Many thanks to the three for their time!


What are the main achievements of the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

The ICRISAT component of the programme was focussed on the production of higher and more stable grain yields of sorghum and pearl millet by smallholder farmers. We have increased the production of quality seeds, not only at the individual seed producer level, but also at the level of farmer organizations. As a result, more quality seeds are available which leads to higher yields. One farmer told me that he planted millet on ten hectares and sorghum on three hectares. With the quality seeds he increased his sorghum yields from about 1000 kilogram/hectare to two tons/hectare and is expecting similar results for the millet field. With the profit he made, he could solve his financial problems and send his children to school. And this is just one example of how we have improved the living conditions in the region. In general, the major outputs of the programme are strengthened skills and capacity of seed producers, farmer organizations and researchers through training and farmer field schools; an increased communication and stronger coordination among the different actors in the region; increased varietal options for sorghum and pearl millet for smallholder farmers and a strengthened monitoring and evaluation capacity.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:


What are the lessons learned of the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

There were several success factors that made it possible to implement this comprehensive programme in such a short amount of time. First, the strong engagement of producers and other stakeholders in the process. Second, the problem of bad quality seed was real and widely spread, so we could improve the yields within a short time. Third, capacity building helped to spread the knowledge, also beyond the direct beneficiaries. Fourth, we build on an existing project, which saved us the time of doing baseline research. And last but not least, the strong communication throughout the whole process was a major success factor. Because if you don’t communicate, you can’t scale-up.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:


What are the necessary next steps to sustain and build on the achievements made by the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa, now that the programme activities have been completed?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

The sustainability of our work was very important from the beginning. This is why we used community technologies, supported the spread of knowledge and produced materials, such as training manuals or leaflets with descriptions of new varieties and their specific adaptive and quality traits. But now it is important to put a mechanism in place to enhance the region’s food security in the long term. We should not wait for a crisis to do that.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:



After a day filled with discussions, the workshop participants celebrated their achievements with some traditional Ivorian dance. And while the programme activities have been completed, everyone agreed that the issue of food security is still a timely one and that the work to grow food security in West Africa must continue.

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