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by Julia Wanjiru
On the occasion of World Food Day, the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD), in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), is launching a film dedicated to the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA). The objective is to raise awareness about the success of the Network, which for 30 years has been engaged in the fight against food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West Africa.
The West Africa region leads the continent in progress toward reducing the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Despite rapid population growth and recurrent droughts in the Sahel, the prevalence of malnutrition in West Africa has decreased by 60% over the past two decades, from 24.2% in 1990-92 to 9.6% in 2014-16. West African farmers are among the most productive in the world, and the region currently feeds 225 million more people than in the 1980s; it is among the regions best prepared to face potential food crises.
Despite this progress, many challenges persist and the rate of acute malnutrition remains high in most Sahelian countries. "Whether the agricultural campaign is good or bad, whether the markets function properly or not, each year the region has to manage at least 3 to 4 million people in chronic food and nutrition insecurity," said Sibiri Jean Zoundi, Principal Administrator of the SWAC/OECD Secretariat.
To put an end to the recurring crises, the Sahel and West Africa region has set the goal of "Zero Hunger" by 2030. It can rely on the RPCA, a unique platform for dialogue and co-ordination that allows actors active in the food and nutrition security area to come together, "speak the same language" and reach consensus on the food and nutrition situation of the region. The region can also count on its regional organisations, including ECOWAS and UEMOA, which provide political leadership for the Network with technical co-ordination from CILSS and the SWAC/OECD Secretariat.
Created 30 years ago in response to the severe droughts of 1973, 1984 and 1985, the RPCA gradually established cereal balance sheets; in 1990, it took a big step with the adoption of a Food Aid Charter, a code of good conduct and forerunner of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Today, the regional system for the prevention and management of food crises (PREGEC) is well established: it is based on consensual tools such as the Cadre harmonisé (Harmonised Framework), built around information and analysis systems including assessment missions in the field and a series of technical consultations that take place throughout the cycle of the agro-pastoral campaign. "Thanks to the work of the RPCA, the region has never been taken by surprise by any potential crisis," said CILSS Executive Secretary Djimé Adoum. The Network has also provided a framework for the formulation of a growing number of initiatives and alliances such as the Regional Food Security Reserve or the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR). In view of the quality of its analysis, its ability to unite and build consensus, the RPCA has become a worldwide reference for food and nutrition security in the region.
"2030 is tomorrow! We must act now,” said Mamadou Cissoko, Honorary President of the Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA). "The most important is that we have a massive investment in agriculture", said ECOWAS Commission President Désiré Ouédraogo Kadré. "My first priority is agriculture. My second priority is agriculture. My third priority is agriculture,” underscored UEMOA Commission President Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare. “If we want to help our people, the first thing we must do is to ensure that our agriculture feeds our people," he insisted. . “We must develop climate-smart agriculture to allow people to adapt and become resilient and to live with climate change," Djimé Adoum highlighted. The words of political leaders are mingled with those of actors on the ground who share their experiences and the challenges they face every day.
To meet the challenges ahead, the Network must "invest more in new and effective tools for analysis, forecasting and prevention," said Sibiri Jean Zoundi. Désiré Kadré Ouédraogo concluded by stressing that "The RPCA can play an important role as a platform that promotes consultation, builds synergy and improves co-ordination of efforts among all the actors active in our region to achieve our common objective of Zero Hunger by 2030.”
We hope this film will help spread knowledge of the Network and enlarge its audience beyond the 3,000 people who closely follow its work. We also hope that this success will inspire other regions in Africa and beyond, and encourage them to follow the path charted by the Sahel and West Africa.
The film will be presented during a Special Session of the RPCA, to be held within the framework of the 2015 Sahel and West Africa Week on October 29 in Milan.
Julia Wanjiru is multi-skilled communications professional with a special focus on African development issues, particularly on food and nutrition security and water resource management. Before joining the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD) in 2006, she was a consultant for the OECD Global Relations Secretariat (former CCNM, 2005-2006) and for the Initiative for Central Africa (INICA, 2004-2005).